Managerial Accountability and Flexibility Pilot Did Not Work As Intended

GGD-97-36: Published: Apr 10, 1997. Publicly Released: Apr 10, 1997.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO provided information on the Government Performance and Results Act's (GPRA) implementation during the initial pilot phase, fiscal years (FY) 1994 to 1996, focusing on: (1) whether the managerial accountability and flexibility pilot worked as intended and the reasons why it did or did not; and (2) the lessons learned from this pilot and their possible implications for governmentwide implementation of GPRA.

GAO noted that: (1) the GPRA managerial accountability and flexibility pilot did not work as intended; (2) the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) did not designate any of the 7 departments and 1 independent agency that submitted a total of 61 waiver proposals as GPRA managerial accountability and flexibility pilots; (3) three major factors contributed to the failure of GPRA's managerial accountability and flexibility pilot phase to work as intended; (4) first, changes in federal management practices and laws that occurred after GPRA was enacted affected agencies' need for the GPRA process; (5) second, GPRA was not the only means by which agencies could receive waivers from administrative requirements, and thereby obtain needed managerial flexibility; (6) third, OMB did not work actively with agencies that were seeking to take part in the managerial accountability and flexibility pilot, in contrast to its more proactive posture toward other GPRA requirements, such as the pilots for the performance planning and reporting requirements; (7) overall, officials in five of the eight agencies that submitted a waiver proposal to OMB said that they never received: (a) feedback from OMB on the status of their waiver proposals; (b) notification of specific concerns that OMB may have had about the quality and scope of the proposals; or, most important, (c) explicit instructions from OMB on how their proposals could be improved to better meet OMB's expectations; (8) even though the pilot process did not result in any GPRA-authorized waivers and thus did not work as intended, the process provided lessons for agencies and may have important implications for governmentwide GPRA implementation; (9) while preparing their waiver requests, several participating agencies learned that the burdens and constraints that confronted their managers often were imposed by the agency itself or its parent department and were not the result of requirements imposed by central management agencies; (10) the administration's effort to develop federal management "templates" that, in part, document the range of flexibility agencies have under existing central management agency requirements is a promising means for disseminating knowledge about available flexibility among federal agencies; and (11) in addition, the pilot experience should provide useful information for Congress to consider as GPRA is implemented governmentwide.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In the report, GAO stated that OMB had not formally notified some of the participating agencies that their waivers had been approved outside of the GPRA pilot process or that a compromise had been developed. Overall, officials in five of the eight agencies that submitted waiver proposals to OMB said they never received feedback from OMB on the status of their waiver proposals. OMB's Deputy Director for Management stated that the agency would send formal letters to the agencies regarding their nominations and associated waiver requests. According to an OMB official, these letters were sent in late April and early May, prior to the departure of the Deputy Director. Therefore all agencies have been notified about their waiver requests and status.

    Recommendation: For those GPRA waiver proposals that a central management agency has approved or for which a compromise has been developed, the Director, OMB, should formally notify the relevant agency of the waiver approval or proposed compromise so that the new flexibilities, if still available, can begin to be used.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget


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