Observations on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Fiscal Year 1999 Performance Report and Fiscal Year 2001 Performance Plan

RCED-00-212R: Published: Jun 30, 2000. Publicly Released: Aug 1, 2000.

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Lawrence J. Dyckman
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) fiscal year (FY) 1999 performance report and FY 2001 performance plans required by the Government Performance and Results Act.

GAO noted that: (1) according to its performance report, USDA met most of its 113 performance goals and apparently made progress toward ensuring an adequate and reasonably priced food supply during FY 1999; (2) however, the large number of departmental goals focused on individual program activities, such as eradicating the boll weevil and reducing loan delinquency rates, make it difficult to synthesize the performance information to obtain a clear picture of this progress; (3) although USDA made some adjustments to its performance goals or measures for FY 2000 and 2001, they are essentially the same as they were for FY 1999; (4) however, according to USDA officials, USDA is planning a new approach to developing its annual performance plans and performance reports; (5) USDA generally met its performance goals and made progress toward ensuring a safe and wholesome food supply in FY 1999; (6) however, USDA did not meet some of its targets; (7) USDA's performance goals and measures for FY 2000 and 2001 remained essentially unchanged, although some adjustments were made in the number or organization of the measures; (8) some performance targets were also revised for FY 2001 to reflect USDA's actual FY 1999 performance, new initiatives, or the natural progression of a program or its requirements; (9) USDA's progress toward opening, expanding, and maintaining global market opportunities for agricultural producers was mixed; (10) USDA's goals and measures remained about the same for fiscal years 2000 and 2001; (11) it is difficult to assess USDA's progress during FY 1999 toward reducing hunger and ensuring food for the hungry; (12) USDA met all or some of its performance measures for nearly all of its quantifiable goals for which performance data were available; (13) however, over half of its goals were not in a quantifiable form or did not yet have a baseline or target established, or performance data were not yet available; (14) USDA made various adjustments to its performance goals in its FY 2001 performance plan; (15) USDA met nearly all of its FY 1999 performance goals and made progress toward reducing food stamp fraud and error; (16) however, USDA fell short of meeting its target for investigating fraud within departmental programs by the Office of the Inspector General (IG); (17) USDA's performance goals remain essentially the same for fiscal years 2000 and 2001; (18) USDA's FY 1999 performance report shows varied progress in resolving the major management challenges identified by GAO and USDA's IG in FY 1999; and (19) USDA's FY 2001 performance plan contains applicable goals and measures for some but not all the management challenges identified.

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