Letter to the editor

I believe Milt Zall missed the point of both the Government Performanceand Results Act and A-76 ["GPRA and government business"].

I am 57 and have been employed by the federal government for more than 30 years. My college accounting education prepared me to be a certified public accountant, and cost accounting was extremely important for the management style prior to 1981. What I did not learn was managerial accounting or the work of the certified management accountant (CMA).

Federal workers, especially those in management positions, have missed most of what has happened in the commercial business sector with regardt o management processes. All you have to do is look at the federal financial systems or, better yet, the budget system. Does it answer the question, "Have you or how well did you accomplished your mission as stated in thes trategic plan?" If you are lucky, you will get an answer like, "We executed 99.95 percent of our budget."

Your example of determining the cost of collecting garbage is not as bad as you make it out to be. If dollar spent per pound of garbage is a recognizable benchmark in the waste management business, then comparing what you spent vs. what other commercial enterprises spent is not a bad comparison. To get to the cost per pound, you need a process. If one community is recognized as the best in the country in terms of clean streets, then comparing your process to theirs should provide a useful insight. Determining the cost requires understanding the process of clean streets. In terms ofGPRA, this is the results-oriented process.

Those of us in the federal government are not prepared for performance measurement. Our systems don't support the concept. The best I can figure out is that there are a number of logical management steps one has to go through to get to the understanding of what GPRA is all about.

If one could design a scale, one end of the scale would be resource management and the other would be process management. Execution data is the main evaluation criteria for resource management, where value added is the primary unit for process management. In the past, all that was important was the bottom line. Today, it is what is being added to each step of the process. It is not a simple transition. Those who think process management is the same old thing you got in cost accounting — they "just don't get it."

The entire management revolution that has been brought about by the PC and new software systems has passed right by most federal managers. Weare still fighting obligations and full-time equivalents rather than level of performance achieved by program activities. If we believe the grading that the General Accounting Office has given to the application of the GPRA, most of us do very poorly because we don't understand how we measure whatwe contribute to the purpose of our business. That being true, how can you evaluate anything to do with A-76?

How can you attract highly qualified people to work for the government? By talking to them in the language they understand and giving them applications that they have been using in private industry. Why would anyone who is highly qualified want to go back to management practices that have not been used in years?

Tom Wolter
Civilian, U.S. Army

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