Agencies' reports were graded on how well they explained and delivered on their performance results, progress made in solving major management problems, and agency accomplishments. Each agency was graded on how many key goals relating to its mission it accomplished.
Of the 24 largest agencies, only four-the Departments of Transportation, Veterans Affairs, Education, and the Social Security Administration-received grades higher than a 'C'.
The Departments of Commerce, Energy, Justice, and State all flunked.
"These performance reports are supposed to inform Congress and the public about what agencies are doing and how well they are doing it. Most of them don't do that," said Thompson, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. "Unfortunately, in many cases, agencies didn't have goals for things that we assumed were in their primary mission."
Thompson's commmittee found that agencies have particular difficulty preventing fraud and waste in the use of taxpayer dollars and in providing quality customer service to the public.
The performance reports mark the culmination of the first complete cycle of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), a 1993 law requiring agencies to write strategic plans and prepare annual performance plans and performance reports. Agencies submitted their first performance reports in March, assessing how well they met their goals in fiscal 1999.
Thompson's grades were based on reviews of agencies' fiscal 1999 performance reports by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the General Accounting Office, the Congressional Research Service, Senate Governmental Affairs Committee staff, and agency inspectors general.
Agencies' 1999 performance reports were also graded in May by Mercatus Center scholars, but the focus of those grades was on how agencies delivered their information-readability and user-friendliness of the reports.
Governmental Affairs Committee's Grades of Agencies' 1999 Annual Performance Reports