Results ActObservations on Treasury's Fiscal Year 1999 Annual Performance Plan Gao ID: GGD-98-149 June 30, 1998
The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 requires federal agencies to prepare annual performance plans that set goals against which the agencies' actual performance can be measured. This report provides GAO's observations on the Treasury Department's fiscal year 1999 annual performance plan that was submitted to Congress. GAO found that Treasury's annual performance plan appropriately links its annual performance goals and measures to its strategic goals. Although the plan provides useful information for congressional decisionmakers and other stakeholders, it does not fully present information that (1) reflects the intended performance across the agency, (2) describes how strategies relate to attainment of goals, and (3) assures readers that performance results and data are credible. The plan GAO reviewed was Treasury's first one under the Results Act. Developing a plan that fully meets all the Act's criteria and related guidance will be a challenge because developing measures and collecting reliable data in some important areas, such as taxpayer burden, are difficult to do. Treasury's plan could be enhanced by explicitly discussing the agency's strategy to improve its performance measurement systems and data and by describing Treasury's interim plans to measure performance in critical areas.
GAO noted that: (1) Treasury's FY 1999 annual performance plan partially meets the criteria set forth in the Government Performance and Results Act and related guidance; (2) one of the strengths of the plan is that the annual performance goals and measures are linked to the strategic goals in the bureaus' and offices' strategic plans; (3) moreover, the plan generally provides a clear connection between its performance goals and the program activities in Treasury's budget request; (4) with a few exceptions, the plan covers each of Treasury's program activities as required by the Results Act; (5) the plan could be improved to better meet the criteria set forth in the Results Act and related guidance by presenting information on performance goals and measures in a manner that would better reflect intended or expected performance and achievements; (6) while GAO recognizes that some output measures are necessary, it also believes the plan could define Treasury's expected performance better if it had more outcome goals and measures; (7) also, the plan does not consistently include information across Treasury's bureaus and offices on how the Department plans to coordinate its activities that share a common purpose with activities in other agencies; (8) the plan, which includes the budget justification, describes the resources for carrying out the strategies to meet the criteria set forth in the Results Act and related guidance; (9) however, the information in the plan on how the strategies relate to achieving the goals did not always list strategies or adequately describe them; (10) additional details on how Treasury plans to verify and validate performance data, along with some discussion of how the effects of data limitations are to be handled, would better assure Congress and other stakeholders that the intended performance or results, if achieved, are credible; (11) GAO realizes that developing measures and collecting reliable data for some important areas of Treasury's performance are very difficult to do; (12) however, Treasury's plan could be enhanced by explicitly discussing the Department's strategy to improve its performance measurement systems and data and by describing Treasury's interim plans to measure performance in critical areas; (13) Treasury's plan would be more useful to Congress and other stakeholders if it included performance goals to address the significant management challenges and high-risk areas it faces; and (14) the plan briefly acknowledges some of the major management challenges and high-risk areas, but it does not have performance goals that adequately address all of them.