Federal Agencies Should Use Good Measures of Performance To Hold Managers Accountable

FPCD-78-26: Published: Nov 22, 1978. Publicly Released: Nov 22, 1978.

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Congress, the Civil Service Commission (CSC), and others have expressed concern about the need to hold federal government managers accountable for the efficient use of people and other resources. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 was enacted to make broad improvements in the civil service system, but the act cannot be fully effective unless agencies implement it with performance measurement systems.

A major problem is the lack of reliable data on performance. Quantified data from work measurement, productivity, and cost systems need to be developed to compare performance with established goals as a basis for evaluating the effectiveness of managers. Most agencies either have not developed such systems or have not effectively used them. The Forest Service and the Small Business Administration had no work measurement systems; the Department of Veterans Benefits of the Veterans Administration had a system, but it was not used to assess managers' accountability for efficiency; and the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Postal Service had weaknesses in their work measurement systems that prevented full realization of potential benefits. The following institutional barriers must be overcome: (1) an arbitrary personnel ceiling process; (2) managers' perceptions that penalties rather than rewards tend to result from more efficient performance; (3) problems with the civil service personnel management systems; and (4) political actions which frustrate efforts to improve productivity.

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