Government Operations:

Observations on the Department of the Interior's Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan

RCED-99-207R: Published: Jul 20, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 18, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the fiscal year (FY) 2000 performance plan for the Department of the Interior, which was submitted to Congress in response to the Government Performance and Results Act, focusing on: (1) assessing the usefulness of the agency's plan for decisionmaking; and (2) identifying the degree of improvement the agency's FY 2000 performance plan represents over the FY 1999 plan.

GAO noted that: (1) Interior's FY 2000 annual performance plan consists of 10 components--a departmental overview and nine component plans; (2) most of the plans provide a general picture of intended performance across the agency and a general discussion of the strategies and resources that the agencies will use to achieve their performance goals; (3) however, additional work is needed to provide confidence that the performance information will be credible; (4) most of the component plans have performance measures that represent progress towards the performance goals; (5) Interior's FY 2000 performance plans show moderate improvement in addressing weaknesses that GAO identified in its assessment of the FY 1999 plans; (6) in reviewing the FY 1999 plans, GAO observed overall that the plan was not user-friendly; (7) the component plans had to be reviewed in conjunction with the budget justifications; (8) therefore, understanding the totality was an overwhelming and time-consuming task involving a review of about 3,500 pages of material; (9) more specifically, GAO said that the plans were limited: (a) in describing the strategies to accomplish performance goals; (b) discussing the actions to address external factors that were likely to affect performance; (c) describing the capital, human, and other resources to be used to achieve performance goals; (d) describing credible procedures to verify and validate performance information; and (e) recognizing known significant limitations to data from agency sources; (10) while Interior's FY 2000 total plan is still quite lengthy, it is significantly more informative; (11) specifically, the overall plan: (a) follows a consistent format among all of the component plans, making it easier to locate material; (b) shows improved linkages between the component plans and among the goals and strategies within each individual plan; and (c) has fewer and, as a result, more focused, goals and measures; (12) the departmental overview plan identifies department-wide goals that are more clearly presented; (13) the FY 2000 plans are becoming more stand-alone documents in that they are more clearly presented; (14) the FY 2000 plans are becoming more stand-alone documents in that they do not have to be read in conjunction with the budget justifications in order to provide a reasonable understanding of each plan; and (15) the plans do a better job of developing goals that are measurable, describing the strategies that the agencies will use to measure the accomplishment of goals, and discussing the external factors that have an effect on accomplishing the stated goals.

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