GAO: Performance data is underused

The Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993 was supposed to make agencies focus on how effective their programs were rather than on how much money they spent on them. But now, 12 years later, the GPRA’s benefits on federal decision-making are still not widespread, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

GAO officials say that managers are collecting more data to measure their various programs’ effectiveness than they were in 1997, when GAO auditors conducted an earlier GPRA review. GAO refers to such measurements as performance data. But the report states that federal managers have not progressed much beyond where they were in 1997 in using that data to make better management decisions.

Agencies can derive value from such data only when they use it to identify problems and take corrective action, for example, according to GAO. Such data also has value for officials deciding how to allocate scarce resources or in recognizing and rewarding outstanding employees or organizations.

The Federal Aviation Administration, for example, uses data it collects on program results to identify and reward employees, when merited, with an Organizational Success Increase, an agencywide pay increase based on how well the FAA scored on 31 performance measurements in its strategic plan. In 2004, all FAA employees received a 2.13 percent increase.

Besides the FAA, the report describes how four other agencies use performance data to improve decision-making or share program information with other agencies about what works and what doesn’t. They are the Commerce and Labor departments, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Small Business Administration.

The House Government Reform Committee’s Government Management, Finance and Accountability Subcommittee requested the report.

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