Performance Measurement:

An Important Tool in Managing for Results

T-GGD-92-35: Published: May 5, 1992. Publicly Released: May 5, 1992.

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GAO discussed how the development and use of program performance measures can help Congress and executive branch agencies improve government operation. GAO noted that, using the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 as a foundation, Congress and executive agencies could improve accountability for program results by: (1) clearly articulating agency missions in the context of statutory objectives and citizen expectations; (2) reaching agreements on realistic, outcome-oriented goals and the data needed to assess progress; (3) developing implementation plans for agency goals and objectives and specific measures of progress toward achieving them; (4) setting interim targets for agency operations; (5) reporting annually on their progress; and (6) actively overseeing agency performance in key areas. GAO also noted that: (1) discussions with state, locality, and other country officials suggested that the necessary changes will be gradual and difficult, and will require a high degree of agency-wide commitment; and (2) few agencies have begun to reshape their operations and focus on results, and many agencies use performance assessment data for a variety of purposes. In addition, GAO noted that the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, in considering additional legislation to measure agency performance, should also consider: (1) creating a framework for the development of measures; (2) creating incentives for federal managers and Congress to use the measures; (3) sorting out agencies and programs by level of measurement difficulty; (4) starting with pilot projects; and (5) adhering to an implementation schedule.

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