The Government Performance and Results Act:

1997 Governmentwide Implementation Will be Uneven

GGD-97-109: Published: Jun 2, 1997. Publicly Released: Jun 2, 1997.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed federal agencies' implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA), including the prospects for compliance by federal agencies beyond those participating as pilots under the act, focusing on: (1) the status of the act's implementation efforts; (2) significant challenges confronting executive agencies in their efforts to become more results-oriented; and (3) ongoing efforts to integrate program, cost, and budget information into a reporting framework that allows for fuller consideration of resource allocations, operational costs, and performance results.

GAO noted that: (1) GPRA's implementation has achieved mixed results which will lead to highly uneven governmentwide implementation in the fall of 1997; (2) while agencies are likely to meet the upcoming statutory deadlines for producing initial strategic plans and annual performance plans, those documents will not be of a consistently high quality or as useful for congressional and agency decisionmaking as they could be; (3) the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) selected over 70 performance planning and reporting pilots that far exceeded the number required by GPRA and that should provide a rich body of experience for agencies to draw on in the future; (4) the experiences of some of GPRA's pilot agencies and related efforts by nonpilot agencies showed that significant performance improvements were possible, even in the short term, when an agency adopted a disciplined approach to setting results-oriented goals, measuring its performance, and using performance information to improve effectiveness; (5) however, the reported examples of substantial performance improvements were relatively few; (6) one set of challenges to effectively implementing GPRA arises from the complications of government structure and from program proliferation; (7) others involve methodological difficulties in identifying performance measures or the lack of data needed to establish goals and assess performance; (8) the following are among the challenges that GAO observed: (a) overlapping and fragmented crosscutting program efforts present the logical need to coordinate efforts to ensure that goals are consistent and, as appropriate, that programs efforts are mutually reinforcing; (b) the often limited or indirect influence that the federal government has in determining whether a desired result is achieved complicates the effort to identify and measure the discrete contribution of the federal initiative to a specific program result; (c) the lack of results-oriented performance information in many agencies hampers efforts to identify appropriate goals and confidently assess performance; (d) instilling within agencies an organizational culture that focuses on results remains a work in progress across the federal government; and (e) linking agencies' performance plans directly to the budget process may present significant difficulties; and (9) GAO believes that GPRA's success or failure should not be judged on whether contentious policy issues are fully resolved, but rather should turn on the extent to which the information produced through GPRA's goal-setting and performance measurement practices helps inform policy decisions and improve program management.

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