Government Management:

Addressing High Risks and Improving Performance and Accountability

T-OCG-99-23: Published: Feb 10, 1999. Publicly Released: Feb 10, 1999.

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Lisa G. Jacobson
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the major challenges faced by the government in improving its performance and strengthening accountability, focusing on agencies' need to: (1) adopt an effective results orientation; (2) improve the use of information technology to achieve results; (3) strengthen financial management decision-making and accountability; and (4) build, maintain, and marshal the human capital needed to achieve results.

GAO noted that: (1) many agencies continue to struggle to implement basic tenets of performance-based management called for by the Government Performance and Results Act; (2) the uneven pace of progress across government is not surprising; agencies are in the early years of undertaking the changes that performance-based management entails; (3) ineffective and outmoded organizational and program structures frequently have undermined agencies' effectiveness; (4) challenges agencies confront range from the need for clearer lines of accountability to streamlining organizations in response to changing circumstances; (5) resolving the year 2000 computing problem is the most pervasive, time-critical risk facing the government; (6) over the past 2 years, preparedness has improved markedly, but significant challenges remain and time is running out; (7) continuing computer security weaknesses put critical federal operations at great risk; (8) much more needs to be done to ensure that systems and data supporting essential federal operations are adequately protected; (9) widespread financial system weaknesses, problems with fundamental recordkeeping, incomplete documentation, and weak internal controls prevented the government from accurately reporting a large portion of its assets, liabilities, and costs; (10) these deficiencies undermine agencies' ability to accurately measure costs and effectively safeguard federal assets and manage operations; (11) providing cost information also remains a key challenge; (12) new standards require agencies to develop measures of the full costs of carrying out a mission, producing products, or delivering services to promote comparison of the costs of various programs and results; (13) the rapid pace of social and technological change and shifts in agency strategies to achieve their missions pose continuing challenges to attract and develop skilled staff; (14) skills gaps in critical areas undermine agencies' effectiveness and efforts to address high-risk areas; and (15) overall, human capital must become a more prominent issue for the government as agencies become more performance-based.

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