Agencies failing to link performance to budgets

The federal government is improving at evaluating agencies through performance measures, but there is still a long way to go, and Congress is expected to keep an eye on the process next year, according to Office of Management and Budget officials.

The Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) is designed to get agencies to link budgeting to performance. While some agencies are taking this to heart, others view the annual performance plans and the three-year strategic plans as formalities, and fundamental changes are not being made, Walter Groszyk, OMB's lead for GPRA implementation, said at a seminar last week.

There are many impediments to GPRA, including the lack of adequate financial systems, rigid regulations and budgeting methods, and lack of agency acceptance of the act as a tool to better manage their agencies, Groszyk said. But Congress also has a big role to play in the success or failure of the act, he said.

Agencies are to submit the revision of their strategic plan to Congress by September, and one way to get agency heads to pay more attention to the importance of well thought-out plans is for Congress itself to pay more attention, Groszyk said. "To date, congressional interest is more episodic than across the board...and agencies respond to this," he said.

With the Year 2000 problem out of the way, the Hill will be looking much more closely at agency performance plans and reports, said Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology.

When agencies submit their GPRA reports to Congress by March 31, the reports will be closely analyzed and the committee will likely hold joint hearings with agency authorization and appropriations committees to discuss how to use the past performance information to form the fiscal 2001 budget, Horn said. "We need to get those people talking together," he said.

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