Managing for Results:

EPA's Efforts to Implement Needed Management Systems and Processes

RCED-97-156: Published: Jun 18, 1997. Publicly Released: Jul 8, 1997.

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Peter F. Guerrero
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the status of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to: (1) establish a new office that would develop and implement an integrated planning, budgeting, and accountability system for the agency; and (2) ensure that the agency has comprehensive scientific and environmental data and appropriate environmental measures of progress for use in strategic planning, budgeting, and accountability. GAO also reviewed EPA's previous efforts to implement this type of system and identified elements of an effective system that could be used as benchmarks to gauge progress in this current effort.

GAO noted that: (1) in January 1997, the EPA Administrator approved the organizational structure and staffing for a new office, called the Office of Planning, Analysis, and Accountability, which is responsible for developing and implementing an integrated planning, budgeting and accountability system; (2) earlier, in March 1996, EPA had established a work group, composed of employees on temporary assignment, to begin developing the new system; (3) although the work group was never fully staffed and made limited progress in developing the system, it developed a conceptual framework that the new office is beginning to implement; (4) members of the work group were temporarily assigned to the new office, which will not be fully staffed before July 1997; (5) EPA faces long-term challenges to obtain the scientific and environmental information needed to fully support its new system; (6) although much scientific and environmental information has already been collected, many gaps exist, and the data are often difficult to compile because different data collection methods have been used; (7) likewise, much effort is still needed to identify, develop, and reach agreement on a comprehensive set of environmental measures to link the agency's activities to changes in human health and environmental conditions; (8) currently, EPA has to rely mainly on administrative measures, such as the number of permits issued or inspections made, to measure its performance or success; (9) EPA has been trying since the early 1970s to revise its management systems to better manage for results; (10) in the early 1990s, for example, EPA announced a strategic planning, budgeting, and accountability effort that was very similar to the system being proposed today; (11) however, such efforts proved to be difficult and fell short of EPA's expectations; (12) EPA's current plans are no less complex and challenging; (13) given this complexity, GAO identified various elements of an effective planning, budgeting, and accountability system that EPA can use as benchmarks to monitor its progress as it works to implement its plans for an integrated system; (14) these elements describe organizational, informational, and procedural capabilities needed to improve and integrate EPA's management processes; and (15) EPA also needs performance partnership agreements with the states to set out expectations for their contributions to meeting national environmental and agencywide goals and to specify measures for assessing their performance.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has taken several actions to integrate its planning, budgeting, and accountability system. While these actions are consistent with linking together agency goals, measures, and resources, in taking these actions, the agency did not establish benchmarks for how the new system is to operate when fully implemented and for use in monitoring progress toward implementing the system.

    Recommendation: To help ensure the full implementation of the agency's plans for an integrated planning, budgeting, and accountability system, the EPA Administrator, in consultation with key stakeholders, should establish expectations or benchmarks for how the new system is to operate when fully implemented and use them to monitor the agency's progress in implementing the system.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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