Skip to Highlights
Highlights

What GAO Found

The six agencies GAO reviewed generally did not publicly report on how they ensured the accuracy and reliability of performance information used to measure progress on their highest priority performance goals, referred to as agency priority goals (APGs). The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) requires agencies to identify the following when publicly reporting on their APGs: 1) how performance information was verified and validated; 2) data sources; 3) level of accuracy required for intended use; 4) any limitations at the required level of accuracy; and 5) how the agency will compensate for such limitations (if needed) to reach the required level of accuracy. GPRAMA requires agencies to provide this information to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for publication on Performance.gov. GPRAMA also directs agencies to provide this information for performance goals, which include APGs, in their annual performance plans and reports. While all six agencies described how they ensured the quality of their performance information overall, GAO found discussions about performance information quality addressing all five GPRAMA requirements in only the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) performance plans and reports.

Agency Priority Goal (APG) Performance Information Quality Discussion in Selected Agencies' Performance Plans and Reports for FY13-FY16

Agency

Description of how agency ensured performance information quality overall

Number of APGs for FY14 and FY15

Description of how each APG met GPRAMA performance information quality requirements

Agriculture

Yes

3

0

Defense

Yes

4

0

Homeland Security

Yes

3

3

Interior

Yes

6

0

Labor

Yes

3

0

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Yes

4

0

Total

6 yes

23

3

Source: GAO analysis of selected agencies' performance plans and reports. |GAO-15-788

OMB and the Performance Improvement Council (PIC)–a cross-agency council of agency performance improvement officers–established the Data Quality Cross-Agency Working Group in February 2015. The group has identified several goals, such as improving the reliability and quality of performance information, and could serve as a vehicle for disseminating good practices in public reporting on data quality.

Why GAO Did This Study

Federal agencies have not always clearly and transparently explained to Congress and the public how they ensure the quality of their performance information. GPRAMA requires agencies to publicly explain how they ensure the accuracy and reliability of their performance information used to assess progress for their APGs.

This is one of a series of GAO reports examining the implementation of GPRAMA, as required by the act. This report assesses how well selected agencies publicly reported on the quality of performance information used to measure progress on APGs. GAO selected six agencies–the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Interior, and Labor, and NASA and DHS– based on GAO's 2013 federal managers survey on their agency's use of performance information. GAO reviewed information concerning these agencies' APGs published on Performance.gov and in their annual performance plans and reports.

Skip to Recommendations

Recommendations

GAO recommends that all six of the agencies work with OMB to describe on Performance.gov how they are ensuring the quality of their APGs's performance information, and that all agencies, except for DHS, also describe this information in their annual performance plans and reports. GAO also recommends that OMB, working with the PIC, focus on ways the PIC's data quality working group can improve public reporting for APGs. OMB did not comment on the recommendations, but the six agencies generally concurred or identified actions they planned to take to implement them.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Homeland Security To improve the public reporting about how agencies are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their priority goals, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, and Labor, and the Administrator of NASA should more fully address GPRAMA requirements and OMB guidance by working with OMB to describe on Performance.gov how they are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their APGs.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, DHS added an overall description on Performance.gov of how the agency ensures reliable performance information is reported to external audiences. DHS's explanation refers to the data quality appendix in its performance plan and report covering fiscal years 2015-2017 and a hyperlink is provided from Performance.gov to the DHS website where this appendix can be found. Further, DHS also made it easier to locate information concerning its APGs in this data quality appendix by consolidating the relevant discussion in one section.
Department of Agriculture To improve the public reporting about how agencies are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their priority goals, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, and Labor, and the Administrator of NASA should more fully address GPRAMA requirements and OMB guidance by working with OMB to describe on Performance.gov how they are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their APGs.
Open
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) did not comment on the recommendations directed to it in our 2015 report. However in response to our draft report, a USDA official described specific actions planned to improve the quality of publicly-reported performance information for agency priority goals (APGs). Further in a November 2018 letter to the Comptroller General, USDA's Inspector General acknowledged that additional efforts were needed to better describe the quality of the data supporting the APGs and said that USDA will increase the amount of information provided in the quarterly APG updates for Performance.gov. In April 2021, we found that USDA had provided updates through the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020 for four of five of its APGs and an update through the third quarter for the remaining APG. These updates are in Performance.gov's archive for the Trump Administration's performance and management agenda. While USDA provides some data quality explanation, such as for its reduce animal disease APG, USDA provided no data quality discussion for other APGs, such as reduce consumer risk from regulated products through modernization APG. In April 2021, we contacted USDA officials to obtain updated information and offered to discuss ways USDA could more fully address GPRAMA requirements. We will continue to monitor USDA's efforts to address our recommendation.
Department of Defense To improve the public reporting about how agencies are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their priority goals, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, and Labor, and the Administrator of NASA should more fully address GPRAMA requirements and OMB guidance by working with OMB to describe on Performance.gov how they are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their APGs.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, a DOD official reported in April 2021 that they had provided the required data quality information to OMB to be posted on Performance.gov before the change in administrations. DOD's APG updates for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020 explained how DOD is addressing each of the five data quality requirements for its three APGs for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 . This information is posted within the archives of President Trump's Administration's performance and management agenda on Performance.gov .
Department of the Interior To improve the public reporting about how agencies are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their priority goals, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, and Labor, and the Administrator of NASA should more fully address GPRAMA requirements and OMB guidance by working with OMB to describe on Performance.gov how they are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their APGs.
Open
The Department of the Interior (Interior) concurred with the recommendation and discussed specific actions they plan to take. In April 2021, we found that Interior had provided updates through the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020 for five of its six APGs. These updates are in Performance.gov's archive for the Trump Administration's performance and management agenda. While Interior provides some data quality explanation, such as for its water conservation APG, Interior provided more limited data quality discussion for other APGs and says it will provide an update on an APG related to oil and gas drilling permits at a future point. In April 2021, we contacted Interior officials to obtain updated information and offered to discuss ways Interior could more fully address GPRAMA requirements. We will continue to monitor Interior's efforts to address our recommendation.
Department of Labor To improve the public reporting about how agencies are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their priority goals, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, and Labor, and the Administrator of NASA should more fully address GPRAMA requirements and OMB guidance by working with OMB to describe on Performance.gov how they are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their APGs.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, the Department of Labor (Labor) added data quality descriptions to Performance.gov for four of its five agency priority goals (APGs) for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 that explain how Labor ensures the accuracy and reliability of the performance information used to measure progress toward each APG. For Labor's remaining APG to begin implementation of a shared services model for administrative functions, the agency identifies data sources on Performance.gov and its performance report for fiscal year 2018 (which can be accessed through Performance.gov ) provides additional data quality discussion addressing the remaining four requirements
National Aeronautics and Space Administration To improve the public reporting about how agencies are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their priority goals, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, and Labor, and the Administrator of NASA should more fully address GPRAMA requirements and OMB guidance by working with OMB to describe on Performance.gov how they are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their APGs.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, NASA added data quality descriptions to Performance.gov for each of its four APGs for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 that explain how NASA tracks progress toward each APG, consistent with GPRAMA requirements.
Department of Agriculture To improve the public reporting about how agencies are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their priority goals, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Defense, Interior, and Labor, and the Administrator of NASA should more fully address GPRAMA requirements and OMB guidance by describing in their agencies' annual performance plans and reports how they are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their APGs.
Open
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) did not comment on the recommendations directed to them. However, they discussed specific actions they plan to take to improve the quality of their publicly-reported performance information for their agency priority goals (APGs). In a November 2018 letter to the Comptroller General, USDA's Inspector General stated that the Department agrees with the recommendation and will begin providing data quality explanation for its APGs in its annual performance plan and report to be published in February 2019. However, USDA has not yet completed this task. The most recent performance plan and report available on USDA's webpage in April 2021, which covers fiscal years 2021 and 2019 respectively, states that officials attest to the completeness, reliability, and quality of the data presented. USDA also describes the progress it has made on its APGs. GPRAMA requires more specific data quality discussion for each APG. In April 2021, we requested updated information from USDA officials and offered to discuss ways USDA could more fully address GPRAMA requirements. We will continue to monitor USDA's efforts to address our recommendation.
Department of Defense To improve the public reporting about how agencies are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their priority goals, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Defense, Interior, and Labor, and the Administrator of NASA should more fully address GPRAMA requirements and OMB guidance by describing in their agencies' annual performance plans and reports how they are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their APGs.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, a DOD official reported in April 2021 that DOD had provided the required data quality information to OMB to be posted on Performance.gov before the change in administrations. DOD's APG updates for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020 were posted on Performance.gov and explained how DOD is addressing each of the five data quality requirements for its three APGs for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. This information is posted within the archives of President Trump's Administration's performance and management agenda on Performance.gov. In regards to the recommendation to provide this information in its annual performance plan and report, DOD's performance plan for fiscal year 2021 and annual performance report for fiscal year 2019, as well as its performance report for fiscal year 2020, describe DOD's APGs and refer readers to Performance.gov for updates, which include the required data quality information.
Department of the Interior To improve the public reporting about how agencies are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their priority goals, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Defense, Interior, and Labor, and the Administrator of NASA should more fully address GPRAMA requirements and OMB guidance by describing in their agencies' annual performance plans and reports how they are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their APGs.
Open
The Department of the Interior (Interior) concurred with the recommendation and discussed specific actions they plan to take. The Department of the Interior's (Interior) 2019/2020 Annual Performance Plan & 2018 Report (APP&R) includes a section concerning data accuracy and reliability and describes in general terms how Interior ensures the accuracy and reliability of performance information and how it addresses the five data quality requirements in the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010. Interior states in this section that measurement procedures for agency performance goals are described on Performance.gov. As of April 2021, our review found that Interior has not provided specific data quality explanation for its APGs on Performance.gov. In April 2021, we contacted Interior officials to obtain updated information and offered to discuss ways Interior could more fully address GPRAMA requirements. We will continue to monitor Interior's efforts to address our recommendation.
Department of Labor To improve the public reporting about how agencies are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their priority goals, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Defense, Interior, and Labor, and the Administrator of NASA should more fully address GPRAMA requirements and OMB guidance by describing in their agencies' annual performance plans and reports how they are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their APGs.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Labor's (Labor) performance report for fiscal year 2018 (which also serves as its performance plan for fiscal year 2020) refers readers interested in its agency priority goals (APGs) to Performance.gov. In response to our recommendation, Labor added on Performance.gov data quality descriptions for four of its five APGs for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. For Labor's remaining APG to begin implementation of a shared services model for administrative functions , the agency identifies data sources on Performance.gov and its performance report for fiscal year 2018 provides additional data quality discussion for specific measures related to this APG which address the remaining requirements
National Aeronautics and Space Administration To improve the public reporting about how agencies are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their priority goals, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Defense, Interior, and Labor, and the Administrator of NASA should more fully address GPRAMA requirements and OMB guidance by describing in their agencies' annual performance plans and reports how they are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards their APGs.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, NASA added a data quality explanation to the section of its FY2015 Annual Performance Report/FY2017 Annual Performance Plan that describes how NASA tracks progress toward each of its four APGs for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, consistent with GPRAMA requirements.
Office of Management and Budget To help participating agencies improve their public reporting, the Director of OMB, working with the PIC Executive Director, should identify additional changes that need to be made in OMB's guidance to agencies related to ensuring the quality of performance information for APGs on Performance.gov.
Closed - Implemented
In July 2018, OMB staff shared with us a reporting template for Performance.gov for the fiscal years 2018 and 2019 APGs. This template allows agencies to provide information on data accuracy and reliability for individual APGs and agencies may provide hyperlinks to more detailed data quality discussions published in their annual performance plans and reports.
Office of Management and Budget To help participating agencies improve their public reporting, the Director of OMB, working with the PIC Executive Director, should identify practices participating agencies can use to improve their public reporting in their performance plans and reports of how they are ensuring the quality of performance information used to measure progress towards APGs.
Closed - Implemented
In addition to highlighting the need for better public reporting, our review also focused more attention on agencies' internal processes for verifying and validating performance information. In July 2015, we briefed the Performance Improvement Council's (PIC) Data Quality Cross-Agency Working Group on leading practices identified in our prior work for ensuring agencies are accurately verifying, validating, and reporting performance information, and shared GAO's performance and accountability report which describes our own data quality processes. In February 2016, the PIC Executive Director directed Performance Improvement Officers (PIOs) and their deputies to complete a self-assessment of their agency's data quality policies and procedures to ensure these were consistent with OMB guidance. PIC staff summarized the agencies' self-assessments at the March 2016 meeting of the PIOs for the Chief Financial Officers Act agencies. We reviewed presentation notes which confirmed that PIC staff had addressed our recommendation by summarizing for the PIOs the results of these self-assessments, identifying aspects of data quality in which agencies had generally rated their performance highest, and other aspects of data quality in which agencies had rated their performance lowest.

Full Report