Program Evaluation:

Improving the Flow of Information to the Congress

PEMD-95-1: Published: Jan 30, 1995. Publicly Released: Jan 30, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on: (1) the kinds of information that would be useful to the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources for program oversight and reauthorization reviews; (2) the extent to which agencies currently collect and report such information; and (3) a strategy the Committee could use to improve its access to agency information.

GAO found that: (1) useful program information includes descriptive information, implementation data, and data on program effects; (2) a brief list of core descriptive and evaluative questions that vary by program could capture the most useful program evaluation information; (3) when considering program reauthorization, the Committee should plan to request information on alternative approaches well in advance; (4) the Committee needs interim information on programs' implementation of new provisions and developing situations; (5) although the reviewed programs collect large amounts of useful information, the Committee does not receive most of it; (6) feasibility problems or design constraints sometimes limit the usefulness of statutorily mandated reports; and (7) greater two-way communications would facilitate the flow of useful information to the Committee.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The requesting committee successfully used all components of the proposed strategy to obtain from the agency the information needed to prepare for reauthorization of the Community Health Centers program. Discussions between agency and committee staff around the list of questions resulted in successfully obtaining a timely and appropriate response to the committee's needs.

    Matter: The Committee may wish to consider a strategy for requesting information that has three components: (1) selecting and adapting, from a core list, the descriptive and evaluative questions to be asked about a program in interim years and at reauthorization; (2) arranging explicitly to obtain timely oversight information in interim years as well as to receive results of evaluation studies at reauthorization; and (3) providing for increased communication with agency program and evaluation staff to help ensure that information needs are understood and that requests and reports are suitably framed and are adapted as needs evolve.


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