Measuring program performance is a global issue

OMB’s program performance Web site

For the past six years, Bush administration officials have been trying to measure federal programs’ performance using the Performance Assessment Rating Tool (PART). But only now can the Office of Management and Budget make a connection between program ratings and funding levels.

Clay Johnson, OMB’s deputy director for management, said agency program PART scores is one factor in funding decisions made by the administration and Congress.

“There has been a positive correlation between program assessments and changes in funding level,” Johnson said today during a press briefing with reporters. “We devote a lot of energy to validate PART. We can’t do enough to ensure these things are really objective.”

OMB’s ongoing education of Congress and agencies on evaluating programs was a common theme at a meeting June 11 and 12 of about 75 people from more than 20 countries in Washington. The meeting, sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Council for Excellence in Government, brought together budget directors and other officials from the participating countries to exchange ideas about measuring results, said Barry Anderson, head of the Budgeting and Public Expenditures Division of OECD’s Public Government and Territorial Development Directorate.

“As diverse as we are, our challenges are quite similar,” Johnson said. “We have agreed from the outset that most of elected officials and government apparati are set up to deal with policy and spending levels, and not enough attention or this is a great opportunity to spend time on what we are getting from the money we are spending.”

The participants heard from several countries that are implementing different ways to measure performance.

“The most important thing we have focused on today is how we can have the most effective evaluations of spending programs,” said Ian Watt, secretary of Australia’s Finance and Administration Department. “We discussed how we can set performance indicators right, how they should be undertaken, who should undertake the effort and other things.”

Watt said many participants are leaving the conference with a better understanding of how performance data can affect budget decisions.

Robert Shea, OMB’s assistant deputy director for management, said he was most interested in Canada’s decision to set up an independent organization to validate the rigor of the performance metrics.
Shea said he had yet to brief Johnson about the idea. When asked, Johnson said it would be something to consider.

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