Agency Performance Plans

Examples of Practices That Can Improve Usefulness to Decisionmakers Gao ID: GGD/AIMD-99-69 February 26, 1999

The Government Performance and Results Act seek to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and accountability of federal programs by requiring agencies to set program goals and measure results. Under the Act, agencies are to prepare annual performance plans to systematically provide decisionmakers with information on the results to be achieved for a proposed level of resources. Fiscal Year 1999 marks the first time that agencies across government were to prepare annual performance plans covering each program activity in their budgets. This report (1) identifies and describes practices that were applied in some plans that might, if consistently applied, improve the usefulness of all agencies annual performance plans, and (2) provides examples from agencies' fiscal year 1999 performance plans that illustrate each practice.

GAO noted that: (1) opportunities to improve the usefulness of annual plans include: (a) creating a set of performance goals and measures that addresses important dimensions of program performance and balances competing priorities; (b) using intermediate goals and measure to show progress or contribution to intended results; (c) including explanatory information on the goals and measures; (d) developing performance goals to address mission-critical management problems; (e) showing baseline and trend data for past performance; (f) identifying projected target levels of performance for multiyear goals; and (g) linking the goals of component organizations to departmental strategic goals; (2) to coordinate crosscutting programs, agencies should: (a) identify programs that contribute to the same or similar results; (b) set complementary performance goals to show how differing program strategies are mutually reinforcing and establishing common or complementary performance measures, as appropriate; and (c) describe--briefly or refer to a separate document--planned coordination strategies; (3) to show how strategies will be used to achieve goals, agencies should: (a) link strategies and programs to specific performance goals and describe how they will contribute to the achievement of those goals; (b) describe strategies to leverage or mitigate the effects of external factors on the accomplishment of performance goals; (c) discuss strategies to resolve mission-critical management problems; and (d) discuss--briefly or refer to a separate document--plans to ensure that mission-critical processes and information systems function properly and are secures; (4) to show performance consequences of budget and other resources decisions, agencies should: (a) show how budgetary resources relate to the achievement of performance goals; (b) discuss--briefly and refer to the agency capital plan--how proposed capital assets (specifically information technology investments will contribute to achieving performance goals; and (c) discuss--briefly or refer to a separate plan--how the agency will use its human capital to help achieve performance goals; and (5) to build the capacity to gather and use performance information, agencies should identify internal and external sources for data.

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