Council refining assessment tool

Performance Measurement Advisory Council

The Office of Management and Budget's first outside advisory council made its presence felt at its first meeting June 27, as OMB officials pledged to consider a major change to the administration's new performance assessment tool.

The Performance Measurement Advisory Council, which OMB established last month, is made up of a group of independent experts whose primary task is to help with the refinement of the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART).

During the meeting, council members praised the tool, a four-part questionnaire that provides a numerical score with supporting evidence from agencies. The information will be a significant factor in OMB's budget recommendations and is crucial to the budget and performance integration section of the President's Management Agenda.

Other governments are farther ahead with including performance in budget decisions, but OMB's approach may be the most comprehensive and challenging, said William Eggers, a member of the council, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and former manager of the Texas Performance Review.

However, several members suggested separating the information the tool provides on program results — which is what most of the public and Congress are concerned about — from the sections on program management and planning. Those two areas are important to creating a program that will provide good results, but they are more process-oriented, and should probably be scored separately, the members said. OMB Director Mitchell Daniels Jr. agreed.

OMB tested PART during the annual spring review of agencies' budgets. Using those lessons learned and comments from Congress, agency inspectors general and other groups, OMB came up with several areas for improvement, said Tom Reilly, co-chairman of the Performance Evaluation Team, a group that OMB assembled internally to create the tool.

Potential changes include rephrasing questions, asking for additional supporting evidence on answers and clarifying the tool's link to the Government Performance and Results Act.

The administration included its first program performance assessments in the fiscal 2003 budget submitted to Congress last February, but those were done in an ad hoc manner with no real common strategy, said Marcus Peacock, a leader on the Performance Evaluation Team. Now "we're very interested in putting together a robust, transparent process," he said.

OMB plans to release PART by mid-July so agencies and budget examiners can use it during development of the fiscal 2004 budget requests. Peacock cautioned that it is important to understand that "there's not a direct connection between the rating and what might happen with the budget of the program."

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