OMB program management tracking tool needs more focus: GAO

While the Office of Management and Budget’s method for tracking agencies’ program management has improved project performance, the system is too broadly focused and leaves short-term problems unresolved, according to government auditors.

In a new report the Government Accountability Office also said OMB should do a better job of reporting results from its Program Assessment Rating Tool to Congress.

“Most PART recommendations are focused on improving outcome measures and data collection, and are not designed to result in observable, short-term performance improvements,” GAO said. “Since these necessary first steps on the path to long-term program improvement do not usually lead to short-term results, there is limited evidence to date of the PART’s influence on outcome-based program results.”

PART is a key item on the President’s Management Agenda and is supposed to let agencies improve program management by instilling an evaluation culture throughout government.

But while the system has helped agencies focus on management, OMB’s flexible approach in implementing PART has resulted in unclear administrative recommendations on fixing programs that are off track, GAO said.

“Although agency officials appreciated the flexibility OMB provided by not making prescriptive recommendations, some were so general that it was difficult for them to understand what change was required or how progress could be measured,” GAO said.

Also, OMB has not fully engaged Congress in the program’s deployment, GAO said. Congressional staff “told us that OMB’s [communication] efforts have not been sufficient to convince Congress of the value of the PART,” the report said. “Most congressional committee staff we spoke with did not find either the PART information or the way it was communicated suited to their needs.”

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