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

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

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

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.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, CSC, and his successor, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, should implement the Civil Service Reform Act by preparing guidance for agencies to measure managers' and other employees' performance with objective quantified data. The guidance should stress: (1) minimum data needed for appraisals; (2) costs of collecting this data by various methods of differing reliability and benefit; (3) the need to avoid duplication of other systems; and (4) the assurance of privacy in collecting data on individuals. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should revise OMB Circular A-11 to place greater insistence on the use of unit costs, work load measures, and productivity standards for staff requests.

    Agency Affected:


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Oct 10, 2018

Oct 9, 2018

Sep 5, 2018

Jul 16, 2018

May 9, 2018

Feb 8, 2018

Dec 21, 2017

Dec 7, 2017

Nov 20, 2017

Looking for more? Browse all our products here