Government Management

Addressing High Risks and Improving Performance and Accountability Gao ID: T-OCG-99-23 February 10, 1999

This testimony, the Comptroller General's summary of the February 1999 publication GAO/OCG-99-ES, outlines actions needed to improve the performance and accountability of, and manage the risks related to, the federal government. It summarizes the findings of a new set of reports (GAO's Performance and Accountability Series) issued in January 1999. This publication also summarizes GAO's latest high-risk series update. This latter report discusses government operations that GAO has designated "high risk" because of their greater vulnerabilities to waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. vulnerabilities to waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.

GAO noted that: (1) many agencies continue to struggle to implement basic tenets of performance-based management called for by the Government Performance and Results Act; (2) the uneven pace of progress across government is not surprising; agencies are in the early years of undertaking the changes that performance-based management entails; (3) ineffective and outmoded organizational and program structures frequently have undermined agencies' effectiveness; (4) challenges agencies confront range from the need for clearer lines of accountability to streamlining organizations in response to changing circumstances; (5) resolving the year 2000 computing problem is the most pervasive, time-critical risk facing the government; (6) over the past 2 years, preparedness has improved markedly, but significant challenges remain and time is running out; (7) continuing computer security weaknesses put critical federal operations at great risk; (8) much more needs to be done to ensure that systems and data supporting essential federal operations are adequately protected; (9) widespread financial system weaknesses, problems with fundamental recordkeeping, incomplete documentation, and weak internal controls prevented the government from accurately reporting a large portion of its assets, liabilities, and costs; (10) these deficiencies undermine agencies' ability to accurately measure costs and effectively safeguard federal assets and manage operations; (11) providing cost information also remains a key challenge; (12) new standards require agencies to develop measures of the full costs of carrying out a mission, producing products, or delivering services to promote comparison of the costs of various programs and results; (13) the rapid pace of social and technological change and shifts in agency strategies to achieve their missions pose continuing challenges to attract and develop skilled staff; (14) skills gaps in critical areas undermine agencies' effectiveness and efforts to address high-risk areas; and (15) overall, human capital must become a more prominent issue for the government as agencies become more performance-based.

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