Managing for Results

Achieving GPRA's Objectives Requires Strong Congressional Role Gao ID: T-GGD-96-79 March 6, 1996

The Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) requires federal agencies to set strategic goals, measure performance, and report to the President and Congress on their accomplishments. The intent of the legislation is to fundamentally shift the focus of federal management and accountability from a preoccupation with staffing and activity levels to a focus on program "outcomes"--the difference that federal programs can make in people's lives, such as a boost in real wages earned by graduates of an employment program or a reduction in on-the-job injuries. GPRA is being implemented through 71 pilot projects during fiscal years 1994-96 before being introduced governmentwide in the fall of 1997. A growing number of federal agencies are discovering that a focus on outcomes can dramatically improve effectiveness. In the case of the marine safety program, which seeks to prevent marine accidents, the Coast Guard found that although it had traditionally concentrated on inspections, two-thirds or more of all reported casualties had been caused by human error. As a result, the Coast Guard began to work with the towing industry to strengthen the knowledge and the skills of towing industry employees. The result was a significant reduction in the towing industry fatality rate. However, the changes anticipated by GPRA will not come quickly or easily, and strong and sustained congressional attention to implementation of the new law is critical to its success. Some agency officials believe that evidence of real interest on the part of Congress in using performance goals and information would help build support for the act within their agencies.

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