Observations on the Environmental Protection Agency's Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan

Gao ID: RCED-99-237R July 20, 1999

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) fiscal year (FY) 2000 performance plan, which was submitted to Congress in response to the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, focusing on: (1) assessing the usefulness of the agency's plan for decisionmaking; and (2) identifying the degree of improvement the agency's FY 2000 performance plan represents over the FY 1999 plan.

GAO noted that: (1) EPA's FY 2000 annual performance plan provides a general picture of intended performance across the agency and provides a general discussion of strategies and resources the agency will use to achieve its goals; (2) however, the plan provides only limited confidence that the agency's performance information will be credible; (3) for example, the plan has some performance measures, such as reducing toxic air pollution by 5 percent in FY 2000, that address program results; (4) the plan also lays out the regulatory, standards setting, research, and assistance strategies, along with requested resources, to meet EPA's goals for attaining air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter; (5) however, it does not address data limitations in tracking compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act; (6) EPA's FY 2000 performance plan represents a moderate improvement over the FY 1999 plan in that the agency has made progress in addressing the weaknesses that GAO identified in its assessment of the FY 1999 plan; (7) in reviewing the FY 1999 plan, GAO observed that the quality of the goals and measures varied across the plan in that they were not always well-defined or comprehensive enough to cover all important program aspects; the plan did not completely describe how EPA coordinated with other federal agencies that had related strategic or performance goals; and the plan did not consistently identify data limitations and their implications for assessing the achievement of performance goals; (8) among the improvements in the FY 2000 plan are goals and measures of generally better quality; (9) EPA has also made some progress in providing more general information on coordination with other agencies; (10) however, the plan shows little improvement in providing details on goals and strategies that cut across agency lines; and (11) similarly, it shows no substantial progress in better identifying data limitations.

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