Impact Measurement Needed for Technical Assistance
GAO-02-1109T, Sep 17, 2002
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This testimony discusses the results of GAO's review of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) technical assistance and capacity-building programs. Technical assistance programs can be defined as training designed to improve the performance or management of program recipients, such as teaching one-on-one procurement regulations to housing authority staff. Capacity building can be generally defined as funding to strengthen the capacity or capability of program recipients or providers--typically housing or community development organizations--thereby building the institutional knowledge within those organizations. The overall goal of both technical assistance and capacity building is to enhance the delivery of HUD's housing and community development programs. HUD administers 21 technical assistance programs through five program offices. From fiscal year 1998 through fiscal year 2002, the annual funding for HUD technical assistance ranged between $128 million and $201 million, accounting for less than 1 percent of HUD's overall budget each year. Although the general purpose of HUD's technical assistance is to help program participants carry out HUD program goals, each program office designs technical assistance specifically related to its programs. Recipients could be states and units of local government, public or Indian housing agencies, private and nonprofit organizations, or individuals. Providers could be HUD officials or, more commonly, state or local governments, profit and nonprofit organizations, or public housing agencies. HUD awards funding for 17 of the 21 technical assistance programs competitively. The funding for the remaining programs is awarded noncompetitively. HUD uses three types of funding instruments and determines which type to use on the basis of its relationship with the awardee and the level of federal involvement anticipated. All five HUD program offices perform basic oversight of the technical assistance they administer, such as visually observing the technical assistance or reviewing reports submitted by the providers to ensure that the technical assistance was provided. In addition, some program offices also have impact measures in place. HUD does not measure the impact or outcome of technical assistance and does not offer any central guidance on how the program offices should measure its impact.