Congressional Ovesight of Performance

There may be widespread public dissatisfaction with Congress’s performance, but GAO has issued a new report that highlights Congress’s role in overseeing agency performance.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a set of briefing slides, “Managing for Results: Opportunities for Congress to Address Government Performance Issues,” which it is using to bring Members of Congress and their staffs up to speed on the government’s “performance management framework” and how they can use performance information gleaned from agencies to “address challenges facing the federal government.”

The report describes the provisions of recent amendments to the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) that require an increased level of agency and OMB consultation with Congress in the development of priority goals as well as in the review of progress towards those goals. The report highlights that “OMB and agencies are required to consult with relevant committees, obtaining majority and minority views, about proposed goals at least once every 2 years.” It then offers “illustrative key questions” that congressional staff can ask during such consultations, such as:

  • Has the agency identified other agencies with similar goals, programs, or activities in their plans?
  • Does the plan reflect coordination or strategies for working with other agencies as appropriate?
  • Are the agency’s goals and strategies consistent with those of Congress?

It also helpfully provides three case examples of recent instances where Congress did use performance information to improve the performance and efficiency of selected programs:

  • The 2002 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, where congressional attention led to the consolidation of duplicative programs.
  • The Defense Personnel Security Clearance program, where congressional attention helped streamline the clearance process from over 300 days to almost 60 days in 2010.
  • The IRS electronic filing initiative, where congressional attention let to a target of 80 percent of individual tax forms to be filed electronically and when that target was not met, Congress gave IRS additional authority to boost the rate of electronic filing, which rose from 20 percent in 1998 to 79 percent in 2011.

Related Links:

Government Executive’s Charles Clark, “ GAO Coaches Lawmakers on Maximizing Cross-Agency Performance.”

FedNewsRadio’s Emily Kopp: “GAO Pushes for More Oversight of Interagency Programs

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