The Results Act:

Observations on the Social Security Administration's Fiscal Year 1999 Performance Plan

HEHS-98-178R: Published: Jun 9, 1998. Publicly Released: Jun 9, 1998.

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Cynthia Maher Fagnoni
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) fiscal year 1999 performance plan, focusing on: (1) the extent to which SSA's performance plan provides a clear picture of intended performance across the agency; (2) how well the performance plan discusses the strategies and resources SSA will use to achieve its performance goals; and (3) the extent to which SSA's performance plan provides confidence that its performance information will be credible.

GAO noted that: (1) SSA's annual performance plan falls short of meeting the criteria set forth in the Government Performance and Results Act and the related guidance GAO used to assess the plan's quality and usefulness; (2) the plan provides only a partial picture of SSA's intended performance across the agency; (3) the plan sets performance goals for each of its strategic goals, and many of its performance goals can be clearly related to the performance SSA is trying to assess; (4) however, other goals are not measurable or quantifiable and do not define the level of performance to be achieved, thus making it difficult to see how SSA will assess its success; (5) also, SSA fails to show how its performance goals relate to the program activities in its budget structure, and SSA does not identify any crosscutting activities in which the agency shares similar performance goals with other agencies; (6) SSA does not adequately discuss how the agency's strategies and resources will help achieve its goals; (7) the plan outlines a series of brief descriptions of initiatives but fails to show how they will contribute to intended results, and it provides too little information on the resources needed to achieve these results; (8) it is difficult to tell whether SSA has adequately planned how it will achieve the desired results or whether its performance goals are reasonable, given its resources; (9) SSA does not provide sufficient confidence that its performance information will be credible; (10) the plan briefly states only that the Office of the Inspector General is responsible for reviewing the data systems underlying the performance measures; (11) no further details are provided in the plan that would assure the reader that SSA is taking the steps necessary to ensure data integrity; (12) in the past, GAO found that SSA prepared a relatively strong strategic plan, yet it had some weaknesses similar to weaknesses GAO identified in its performance plan; and (13) although SSA's strategic plan stated that the ultimate intent of its goal of effective policy development, research, and program evaluation is to create responsive programs, the performance plan is not yet clear on what this means or how this will be achieved.

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