Streamlining Government: Opportunities Exist to Strengthen OMB's Approach to Improving Efficiency Page: 30 of 73
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to Developing and
Measures Based on a
Program Definition That
Did Not Correspond Well
Officials from all of the selected programs we reviewed identified one or
more challenges related to developing or using efficiency measures. The
challenges cited were not new; we have reported on similar types of
challenges in our prior work on PART and performance measurement
issues in general.42 Challenges related to OMB's guidance and technical
assistance for efficiency measures specifically included: a program
definition that did not correspond well to program operations; an
emphasis on developing outcome-oriented efficiency measures; achieving
required annual improvement targets for efficiency; and inconsistencies
and limitations in OMB's guidance and technical assistance. In addition,
officials described the difficulty of trying to compare the relative efficiency
of programs (or units within programs) that have significantly different
objectives, activities, or cost data.
We previously reported that determining the appropriate program or unit
of analysis for a PART assessment was not always obvious, and what OMB
determined was useful did not necessarily match agency organization or
planning elements.43 We found that OMB sometimes aggregated separate
programs into one for the purposes of a PART assessment, and in other
cases disaggregated programs. Aggregating programs sometimes made it
difficult to create a limited, but comprehensive, set of performance
measures for programs with multiple missions, and agency officials noted
that difficulties could arise when unrelated programs and programs with
uneven success levels were combined for PART. At the same time,
disaggregating a program too narrowly could distort its relationship to
other programs involved in achieving a common goal, and sometimes
ignored the interdependence of programs by artificially isolating programs
from the larger contexts in which they operated. While OMB, in response
to one of our recommendations, expanded PART guidance on how a unit
of analysis was to be determined, problems related to defining programs
for PART remained. An OMB staff member acknowledged to us that OMB
42GAO, The Government Performance and Results Act: 1997 Governmentwide
Implementation Will Be Uneven, GAO/GGD-97-109 (Washington, D.C.: June 2, 1997);
Managing for Results: Efforts to Strengthen the Link Between Resources and Results at
the Administration for Children and Families, GAO-03-9 (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 10,
2002); Performance Budgeting: Observations on the Use of OMB's Program Assessment
Rating Tool for the Fiscal Year 2004 Budget, GAO-04-174 (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 30,
2004); and Performance Budgeting: PART Focuses Attention on Program Performance,
but More Can Be Done to Engage Congress, GAO-06-28 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 28, 2005).
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/m1/30/: accessed May 24, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.