Managing for Results

Challenges in Producing Credible Performance Information Gao ID: T-GGD/RCED-00-134 March 22, 2000

This testimony presents information on the challenges that federal agencies face in producing credible performance information and how those challenges may affect performance reporting. GAO recently reported that it is unlikely that agencies will have the reliable information needed to assess whether goals are being met or specifically how performance can be improved. (See GAO/GGD-00-52, Feb. 2000.) This testimony (1) provides a governmentwide perspective on the credibility of agencies' performance information; (2) discusses some of the challenges faced by agencies, including the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the General Services Administration, in producing credible performance data; and (3) highlights how agencies can use their performance reports to address data credibility issues.

GAO noted that: (1) sound performance data are key to strengthening decisionmaking in agencies and in Congress and for pinpointing specific opportunities for improved performance; (2) the issuance of the first performance reports will provide important information on the overall performance of federal programs; (3) discussing data credibility and related issues in performance reports can provide important contextual information to Congress and agencies to help them address the weaknesses in this area; (4) this sort of discussion in an agency's performance report can alert Congress to the problems the agency has had in collecting results-oriented performance information; and (5) agencies can also alert Congress to the cost and data quality trade-offs associated with various collection strategies, such as relying on sources outside the agency to provide performance data and the degree to which those data are expected to be reliable.

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