Impact Measurement Needed for Technical Assistance
GAO-03-12: Published: Oct 25, 2002. Publicly Released: Nov 25, 2002.
Technical Assistance is an important means through which the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can influence how its program funds are spent; this assistance can range from training workshops to one-on-one assistance. GAO was asked to determine how many HUD technical assistance programs Congress has authorized and their cost; why HUD offers technical assistance programs and who provides and receives the services; and whether HUD program offices are overseeing and measuring the impact of their technical assistance programs as required.
HUD administers 20 technical assistance programs through five program offices. Between fiscal years 1998 and 2002, the annual funding for HUD technical assistance ranged between $108 million and $181 million. The two offices that administer the largest number of programs have the largest share of the overall technical assistance budget. The following figure lists HUD's five program office's number of technical assistance programs or initiatives administered, each program office's definition of technical assistance, their 5-year average total technical assistance funding for fiscal years 1998 through 2002, and the percentage of overall technical assistance funding. The general purpose of HUD's technical assistance is to help program participants carry out HUD program goals. Technical assistance providers could be HUD officials; state or local governments; community-based, for-profit, and nonprofit organizations; or resident service organizations. Recipients of technical assistance could be states and units of local governments, public or Indian housing agencies, community- or faith-based organizations, or the public. Although all five HUD program offices are overseeing technical assistance, HUD does not require them to measure the impact of technical assistance, has not developed guidance for its program offices to measure the impact of the assistance, and has no plans to develop such guidance. HUD cannot demonstrate the effectiveness of the assistance without some indication of its impact.
Recommendation for Executive Action
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: HUD is working with a group of national technical assistance providers to develop a framework to assess the effectiveness of its technical assistance programs. The framework was submitted to HUD in March, 2003 for review and comment. In addition, OMB is requiring HUD and some of the technical assistance/capacity building grantees to conduct a Program Assessment Rating Tool review, designed to promote performance measurement and accountability. Furthermore, some recipients of Section 4 capacity building funds have contracted with a consultant to develop impact measurements for 23 cities across the nation. HUD has added a new rating factor (rating factor 5--achieving results and program evaluation) to its SuperNOFA process. First required in the April 2003 SuperNOFA, the new rating factor requires grant applicants, including technical assistance providers, to identify program outcomes, interim products or benchmarks, and performance indicators that will allow them to measure performance. Also, HUD also conducted a training workshop on results-oriented management and accountability for its grant management specialists that was focused on developing the language for rating factor 5.
Recommendation: To determine whether HUD's technical assistance programs are helping HUD programs to meet their goals, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should require the program offices that provide technical assistance programs to determine the practicability of measuring the impact of these services and, where appropriate, establish objective, quantifiable, and measurable performance goals. In addition, the Secretary should provide guidance to the program offices on how to establish such impact measures.
Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development