House committee to study PART

Lawmakers plan to hold a series of hearings to examine the effectiveness of the Office of Management and Budget's Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) in measuring results.

The House Government Reform Committee's Government Efficiency and Financial Management Subcommittee will address the relationship between PART, which measures program performance, and the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993 and how they can be better integrated.

The first hearing will be held Feb. 4, following a General Accounting Office report to be released today on the OMB's use of PART for the fiscal 2004 budget cycle, according to a memo to the subcommittee. Subcommittee members requested the report, along with the Senate Government Affairs Committee's Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia Subcommittee, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Rep. Tom Tiahrt (R-Kan.).

PART, which assigns each program a grade, tries to address the agencywide performance issues raised by GPRA, which ties funds to an agency's performance results. In the fiscal 2004 budget request, the first round of grades was given to 20 percent of federal programs, and an additional 175 programs were scored in the fiscal 2005 process.

The hearings will examine how PART contributes to GPRA, where there may be some overlap in the reporting requirements of the two and how to ensure PART is an effective tool to fulfill GPRA, according to a subcommittee staff member.

The first hearing is slated to include Paul Posner, director of strategic issues at GAO; Maurice McTigue, director of the Government Accountability Project at George Mason University's Mercatus Center; and Jonathan Breul, senior fellow at the IBM Center for the Business of Government. The second hearing will include OMB officials, the staff member said.

In the report to be released today, GAO concluded that PART's "impact has been less on affecting funding decisions than on recommendations in program management and design," according to the memo. Also, examiners must use judgment in applying general principles to specific programs during the rating process, making outcomes hard to determine. Although PART has called attention to budget and performance integration, it is not well integrated with GPRA, the office found.

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