Friday, December 24, 2010

Congress Passes Legislation Mandating Accountability and Performance at Federal Agencies

Congress has passed landmark, bipartisan legislation requiring federal agencies to set clear goals that can be measured and reported to Congress and the American people in a more transparent way. The Government Performance and Results Modernization Act (HR 2142) calls on federal agencies to identify overlapping federal programs and requires more focused efforts to identify potential taxpayer savings. This legislation is the first significant update of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993 in nearly two decades. The bill now goes to the President's desk for his signature, which is expected.

At a time of budget deficits and crippling national debt, the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act takes several significant steps to make the federal government work smarter and look for ways to save taxpayer money, said Senator Mark Warner, Chair of the Senate Budget Committee's Task Force on Government Performance. The legislation also takes a first step in supporting a key recommendation from the President's Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Bowles Commission) to increase reporting on government-wide cross-cutting priorities, require agencies to identify low priorities and provide new data to identify duplicative federal programs.

The legislation requires the federal government to set government-wide goals and to align programs from different federal agencies to work together to reduce overlap and duplication. Each agency will be required to designate a Chief Operating Officer and a Performance Improvement Officer, with the primary responsibility for pursuing cost-savings through the improved coordination of duplicative programs. These officials also would be held responsible for considering taxpayer savings through better coordination of administrative functions common to every agency, including purchasing.

The legislation also requires federal agencies to post performance data on a single public website on a quarterly, rather than a yearly, schedule. It also sets an ambitious first-year goal of an overall 10-percent reduction in the total number of little-used or outdated reports mandated by previous Administrations and Congresses.

Federal agencies are also directed to make their annual performance plans available on its public website and notify the President and Congress by the first Monday in February. The performance plan must describe how performance goals contribute to objectives of the agency's strategic plan and goals of the federal government performance plan; identify agency priority goals, as well as low-priority program activities; and identify clearly defined milestones, the activities, entities, and policies contributing to each goal, how the agency is working with other agencies to achieve performance goals, and the agency officials responsible for the achievement of each goal. The plan must also describe how the agency will ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data used to measure progress towards its performance goals, as well as the major management challenges and plans to address such challenges.

Under the legislation, OMB must determine whether each agency's programs or activities meet performance goals and objectives outlined in the agency performance plans and submit an annual report on unmet goals to the agency head, specified congressional committees, and the GAO. A federal agency which OMB determines has not met performance goals for one fiscal year must submit a performance improvement plan for each unmet goal with measurable milestones and designate a senior official to oversee the performance improvement strategies for each unmet goal.

The federal agency's Chief Operating Officer must annually to compile and submit to OMB a list of all plans and reports the agency produces for Congress and a list that identifies a specified percentage of those (at least 10% in the first year) as outdated or duplicative. In turn, the OMB Director must include the list of outdated or duplicative agency plans and reports in the annual federal budget submitted by the President and is also authorized to concurrently submit legislation to eliminate or consolidate such plans and reports.