The Results Act:

Observations on the Department of Health and Human Services' Fiscal Year 1999 Annual Performance Plan

HEHS-98-180R: Published: Jun 17, 1998. Publicly Released: Jun 24, 1998.

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Bernice Steinhardt
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) performance plan for fiscal year (FY) 1999.

GAO noted that: (1) HHS' annual performance plan contains a great deal of valuable information to inform Congress about how HHS intends to accomplish its mission; (2) many parts of the plan could better fulfill the Government Performance and Results Act's purpose of ensuring that Congress, the public, and HHS officials have the information they need to assess whether HHS programs are achieving intended results; (3) in particular, more HHS agencies could consistently set measurable performance goals, provide information about how they will coordinate with each other and other performance partners to achieve related goals, identify the resources they need to accomplish their goals, and discuss how they intend to address problems with their performance data; (4) this is the first performance plan that HHS has produced, and it is clearly the product of a great deal of thoughtful work; (5) the HHS performance plan provides a picture of many aspects of HHS' intended performance, but not a complete picture across the Department; (6) most of the individual agency plans provide at least some concrete performance goals with appropriate measures to track progress toward meeting the goals; (7) future performance plans would be more useful and better meet the purposes of the Results Act if HHS made greater use of outcome measures, which it indicates it plans to do, and if more agencies clearly linked their performance goals with HHS' strategic goals and program activities; (8) HHS' plan could be more informative in discussing how HHS' strategies and resources will help accomplish its performance goals; (9) only some of the agencies indicate what strategies they intend to use; (10) HHS has missed the opportunity to address the HHS-wide management challenges that it acknowledged in its strategic plan; (11) the plan could provide better assurance that the information used to measure HHS' performance will be credible; (12) HHS' agencies vary in the extent to which they include required information on data verification and validation; and (13) while HHS and many of its agencies include thoughtful discussions of data limitations, they often do not say how they will address these problems.

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