Clearing up the PART

Office of Management and Budget officials plan to release guidance this month clarifying the Program Assessment Rating Tool and more visibly showing how it links to the current related law, an official said today.

OMB is seeking to give agencies more explanation on PART and how it complements the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, said Robert Shea, OMB's counsel to the deputy director for management. The guidance is expected to be out the week of March 15, he said, and follows a General Accounting Office report in January that criticized the tool for not being clearly linked to the budget planning law.

"There will be very few, if any, changes to the questions" in the PART survey that agencies fill out to evaluate individual programs, Shea said. "It will include examples. We hope to post -- and continue to post -- good measures for people to draw from."

Shea was speaking today at the Government Performance Summit in Washington, D.C., hosted by The Performance Institute.

PART, a piece of the President's Management Agenda, is intended to rate program performance and help in budget decision-making. GAO officials said in the report that the relationship between GPRA and PART is strained and that two processes were indeed parallel and competing. GAO officials also noted that the process is inconsistent regarding how the questions are answered and reviewed.

"GPRA is clearly the foundation for PART," Shea said. "The goals laid out in GPRA are the goals you'll assess. There is not reason they should be inconsistent. There's no reason they should be distinct at all."

The guidance to agencies will aid them in their fiscal 2006 budget preparations, Shea said, and agency PART questionnaires are due by late June or early July. Around the same time as the guidance is released, OMB officials plan to post a list of the programs to be evaluated, with a focus on examining similar programs in cross-government areas, Shea said.

"There is value in accessing information on like programs," he said. "Those practices ought to be available and shared."

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