Streamlining Government: Opportunities Exist to Strengthen OMB's Approach to Improving Efficiency Page: 20 of 73
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information used by the selected programs showed that most of the
measures used budgetary information, such as appropriations or
obligations, for the cost element.28 Of the 18 efficiency measures from our
selected programs that had both typical elements, and had cost as the
input, 14 measures (78 percent) used a form of budgetary information.
We have previously reported that using budgetary information, such as
appropriations or obligations, may not completely capture the full cost of
producing program outputs or outcomes because of differing time frames
and account structures.29 With regard to timing, appropriations provide
agencies legal authority to obligate funds for a given fiscal year or beyond.
Consequently, agency outlays (payments against obligations for goods and
services received) representing the resources used to produce a program's
outputs or outcomes in a given year may flow from obligations made in a
prior year's appropriation. Therefore a given year's appropriations or
obligations may not represent the resources actually used to produce a
program's outputs or outcomes in that year. With regard to account
structures, appropriations accounts developed over the last 200 years were
oriented in different ways in response to specific needs. For example,
some appropriations accounts reflect items of expense, such as salaries or
construction, while others reflect organizations, processes, or programs.
Further, program-oriented account structures may cover multiple
programs or may exclude some indirect resources used by the programs.
Though budgetary information may not completely cover the cost of
producing program outputs or outcomes, several program officials said it
was the most complete information available to them and best met the
needs of Congress. For example, the Department of Labor Job Corps
program, which used budgetary information in its efficiency measure,
divided its request in the fiscal year 2010 Job Corps Congressional Budget
Justification into three categories: operations, construction, and
administration. However, the program's efficiency measure-cost per
participant in the Job Corps program-was based entirely on the
operations category, which encompassed 92 percent of the program's
28Appropriations are a form of budget authority to incur obligations and to make payments
from the Treasury for specified purposes. Obligations are a definite commitment that
creates a legal liability of the government for the payment of goods and services ordered or
received, or a legal duty on the part of the United States that could mature into a legal
liability by virtue of actions on the part of the other party beyond the control of the United
GAO-10-394 Streamlining Government
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Streamlining Government: Opportunities Exist to Strengthen OMB's Approach to Improving Efficiency, report, May 7, 2010; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc302236/m1/20/: accessed May 26, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.