GPRA Talks Slow to Start

Agency consultations with Congress on the Government Performance and Results Act are off to a slow start, the General Accounting Office reported yesterday.

L. Nye Stevens, GAO's director for federal management and workforce issues, told the House subcommittee on management, information and technology that fewer than half the major federal agencies have begun consultations with Congress required under the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA). GPRA requires agency representatives and Congress to meet and discuss agency mission statements and performance measurements as every agency prepares to submit a long-term strategic plan to Congress by September 30. Stevens said the act does not clearly explain how GPRA consultations should proceed.

"Congressional staff and agency officials said they believed that because of their generally limited experience with such consultations, it will take time for Congress and agencies to develop a base of common experiences from which to build a set of specific best practices for future consultations," Stevens said in his prepared testimony.

Subcommittee chairman Rep. Steve Horn, R-Calif., said the House leadership has set up teams of congressional staffers to consult with every department on GPRA. Staffers represent committees with jurisdiction over each agency.

Stevens said congressional staffers and agency representatives categorized their meetings so far as "briefings" and "preliminary consultations." While the participants of most of the meetings told GAO they were useful, two congressional staffers said they received a 1-1/2 hour slide show on the requirements of GPRA instead of a useful discussion of the agency's mission statement and performance goals.

GAO identified three main steps agencies and Congress can take to make GPRA consultations worthwhile:

  • Include high-ranking officials and relevant members of Congress in the consultations.
  • Make sure both groups know what will be discussed at each consultation.
  • Be prepared to meet as many times as both groups feel is necessary to work out disagreements and clarify misunderstandings.
Stevens also said some agencies were slow to start preparing for GPRA consultations because Congress waited until recent months to send signals to the executive branch that it was serious about enforcing the act. Congressional leaders sent a letter to OMB director Franklin Raines two weeks ago that called for agencies to begin consultations "as soon as possible."

Chairman Horn asked Stevens if OMB itself had prepared a strategic plan, and asked him to "remind them we are their oversight committee."

Horn said when OMB representatives come to the Hill he will "give them the royal treatment."

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