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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

GAO Tastes Its Own Medicine

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It would be wrong for an agency to pass judgment on the performance of others without willingness to subject itself to the same standards.

So perhaps the Government Accountability Office should be applauded for releasing on Thursday its Performance and Accountability report.

"In fiscal year 2011," GAO analysts wrote, "we met or exceeded 13 of our 15 annual performance targets by, for example, identifying $45.7 billion in financial benefits for the federal government -- a return of $81 for every dollar we spent -- and 1,318 improvements in broad program and operational areas across the government."

An impressive 80 percent of GAO's recommendations were implemented by agencies or Congress last year, and staff testified some 174 times before Congress.

The watchdog agency's 3,200 employees will continue to focus on three main challenges, their colleagues wrote: physical security, information security and human capital. They've also made "significant progress" on design of a new performance system. And, wrote Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, "We met or exceeded six of the targets for our seven people measures -- retention rate (with and without retirements), staff development, staff utilization, effective leadership by supervisors and organizational climate."

Charlie Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books and organizational media strategies.

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