Performance Measures for Projects Aimed at Promoting Innovation and Transparency Can Be Improved
GAO-11-775: Published: Sep 23, 2011. Publicly Released: Sep 23, 2011.
Congress enacted the Electronic Government (E-Gov) Act in 2002 to promote better use of the Internet and other information technologies (IT), thereby improving government services for citizens, internal government operations, and opportunities for citizen participation in government. Among other things, the act established the E-Gov Fund to support projects that expand the government's ability to carry out its activities electronically. The act also created the Office of Electronic Government within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The Administrator of this office is to assist the OMB Director in approving projects to be supported by the E-Gov Fund. The General Services Administration (GSA) is responsible for administering the fund and notifying Congress of how the funds are to be allocated to projects approved by OMB. GAO was asked to (1) identify and describe the projects supported by the E-Gov Fund, including the distribution of fiscal year 2010 funds among the projects and their expected benefits; and (2) for selected projects, identify their progress against goals. To do this, GAO reviewed project and funding documentation, analyzed project goals, and interviewed agency officials..
The $34 million appropriated by Congress in fiscal year 2010 for the E-Gov fund was distributed among 16 projects in six investment areas, as defined by GSA. One investment area--Improving Innovation, Efficiency, and Effectiveness and Federal IT--accounted for $10 million of the fiscal year 2010 appropriation. This area included an initiative on federal cloud computing--the use of Internet-based computing services. The remaining investment areas supported projects promoting government transparency, collaboration, and public participation and a project for developing best practices for IT management. Among other benefits, the 16 projects are expected to improve data quality and foster cross-agency knowledge sharing and communication as well as increase public access and use of federal datasets. As of May 2011, the four E-Gov projects GAO selected for more detailed review had made varying progress toward their goals. For example, a cloud computing security initiative was still being developed; a dashboard for displaying target and actual customer service metrics had been developed in a pilot with four agencies, but had not been publicly released; a platform for government employees and contractors to use web-based networking and collaboration tools was in limited deployment; and a website (Data.gov) that allows the public to find, download, and use government-generated data had been fully launched. In addition, the four projects had defined performance metrics that aligned with many, though not all, of their major goals and intended benefits. Although the E-Gov Administrator (who serves as the Federal Chief Information Officer) announced the termination of two of the four reviewed projects in May 2011, the two ongoing projects do not yet have fully defined metrics that align with all of their major goals and intended benefits. Thus, managers and stakeholders cannot effectively assess project results and provide credible evidence of progress, which is particularly important in a resource-constrained environment. GAO is recommending that GSA ensure that performance metrics that align with all project goals be developed for ongoing E-Gov projects. In written comments on a draft of this report, GSA concurred with GAO's recommendation.
Recommendation for Executive Action
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: The General Services Administration (GSA) concurred with this recommendation and reported that it has taken steps to track performance metrics that ensure alignment with and achievement of program goals for E-Gov funded programs. Specifically, for the 5 E-Gov initiatives identified in its fiscal year 2014 spending plan, GSA established 3 metrics that it uses to measure their performance, including (1) the number of agencies adopting the initiative, (2) the percentage availability of the initiative's web site, and (3) the index (out of a total score of 100) for customer experience with the initiative. Further, GSA established additional performance metrics that address initiative-specific goals. For example, the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), under the E-Gov Fund's Cloud Computing initiative, is a governmentwide program with the goal of providing a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and monitoring for cloud computing products and services. According to GSA's fiscal year 2014 spending plan, FedRAMP uses a "do once, use many times" framework that will save cost, time, and staff required to conduct redundant agency security assessments across the federal government. GSA measures two FedRAMP-specific metrics: (1) the number of approved security assessment and authorization packages that can be reused and (2) the amount of money saved by reusing the packages.
Recommendation: For any E-Gov Fund projects that continue to be supported, the Administrator of the General Services Administration should ensure that performance metrics are developed that align with those project goals, especially those that currently lack such metrics.
Agency Affected: General Services Administration