Managing for Results:

EPA Faces Challenges in Developing Results-Oriented Performance Goals and Measures

RCED-00-77: Published: Apr 28, 2000. Publicly Released: May 18, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) performance goals and measures, focusing on: (1) the extent to which EPA's fiscal year (FY) 2000 performance goals and measures focus on end outcomes, intermediate outcomes, or outputs; (2) any challenges the agency faces in developing additional performance goals and measures that focus on end outcomes; and (3) the initiatives the agency is taking to address any identified challenges.

GAO noted that: (1) in EPA's FY 2000 performance plan, 16 percent of the goals and 12 percent of the measures focus on end outcomes, targeting the environmental changes that EPA plans to achieve as a result of its activities; (2) end outcomes generally entail reductions in the amount of pollutants emitted or discharged into or concentrated in the environment; (3) to a lesser extent, these end outcomes related to reductions in the amount of pollutant absorbed by living organisms and the adverse effects of the pollutants on ecology and human health and welfare; (4) EPA program managers told GAO that the limited availability of data on environmental conditions and knowledge of the health effects of pollutants needed to measure EPA's performance was the major challenge to developing outcome goals and measures; (5) such data is needed to establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between a program's activities and the resulting changes in the environment; (6) this relationship is often difficult to establish because of factors beyond a program's control, such as changes in weather patterns and economic conditions; (7) in October 1998, EPA announced plans to establish a central information office to, among other things, lead the agency's efforts toward obtaining the environmental information needed to measure the results of its programs' activities; (8) this office has initiated several efforts to improve the quality of EPA's data, such as developing an action plan to detail the key steps the agency needs to take to help ensure that its environmental data are sufficiently complete, compatible, and accurate to meet its needs; (9) in addition, EPA's Office of Planning, Analysis, and Accountability has initiated an effort to work with the agency's program offices to improve the quality of annual performance goals and measures and the agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance is attempting to link its enforcement and compliance activities with environmental results; and (10) other program offices are also taking actions to develop additional outcome goals and measures.

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