Agencies aren’t evaluating results of social programs, report says

Federal agencies have virtually no idea whether most social service programs designed to help the needy actually work, according to a Bush administration report released last week. The report, "Unlevel Playing Field," documented a series of bureaucratic hurdles that prevent faith-based and community-based groups from participating in federal social service programs. The effect of their exclusion is not clear, the report argued, because most social service programs lack performance measures as required under the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). As a result, agencies have no way of knowing if the current system of awarding social service grants to large, secular organizations is a success, the report said. "These federal programs may be doing significant good, and the grantees that routinely win renewed support may be the best available" said the report. "However, in the absence of meaningful performance reviews, agencies have no concrete basis for concluding so." While the report concluded that federal agencies are biased against collaboration with religious organizations - a finding emphasized by President Bush and White House officials - faith-based groups also suffer in a federal grants system that rewards the same organizations year after year regardless of performance, according to the report. For example, eleven large organizations routinely share the largest number of grants from the Labor Department's Senior Community Service Employment Program, according to the report. While Labor has developed performance goals for its programs, department officials cannot independently evaluate information submitted by grantees, the report found. The Education Department has had even less success with creating performance measures that program managers actually use, the report said. "At Education, most program offices were unfamiliar with their programs' GPRA objectives and could not even locate the GPRA reports," said the report. Agencies face real obstacles in developing performance measures to evaluate the success or failure of federal grants, according to experts and the report. The outcomes of social service programs are notoriously difficult to quantify, said Donald Kettl, a scholar with the University of Wisconsin's LaFollette Institute of Public Affairs in Madison. And Uncle Sam does not routinely collect performance data on organizations that receive grants - which are often selected by state and local governments - according to the report. But agencies must do a better job of evaluating how social service programs are working, the report concluded. "This record indicates the need for an across-the-board emphasis on demonstrating the actual efficiency of the programs that government funds," the report said.
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    View
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    View
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    View
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    View
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    View
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    View
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    View

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.