HUD improves performance report, but struggles with results

The Housing and Urban Development Department's fiscal 2000 performance report is an improvement over last year's effort, but the agency is still struggling to articulate and accomplish its mission, according to the General Accounting Office. Although GAO praised HUD for improved reporting and for making progress in meeting its goals, it criticized the department for failing to demonstrate how specific agency programs contributed to successful outcomes, such as increased home ownership. "The report would be more useful to Congress and other decision-makers if it more clearly articulated HUD's progress toward achieving its goals, including identifying the specific contributions it makes distinct from external factors or other contributors," said the report, "Department of Housing and Urban Development: Status of Achieving Key Outcomes and Addressing Major Management Challenges" (GAO-01-833).

Under the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), agencies must write strategic plans, as well as prepare annual performance plans and performance reports. Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., asked GAO to assess the largest federal agencies' fiscal 2000 performance reports and determine how well agencies were achieving their key goals. Thompson has said that this second round of performance reports still does not provide an adequate picture of agencies' performance.

HUD's performance goals for fiscal 2000 were to increase home ownership; increase affordable, decent, and safe rental housing; improve the economic vitality and quality of life of communities; and cut down on waste, fraud and abuse in agency programs. Although HUD reported that home ownership increased to 67.7 percent in fiscal 2000, exceeding the agency's target of 67.5 percent, the agency failed to clearly explain how its programs contributed to the increase in home ownership. GAO also questioned the reliability of some data included in the goal related to increasing affordable housing. HUD's progress toward reducing waste, fraud, and abuse in its programs was unclear, but its discussion of strategies in the fiscal 2002 performance plan to achieve this goal were more specific and more comprehensive than the strategies provided for other outcomes, according to GAO. HUD agreed with most of GAO's review. "The department has embraced the GPRA process," wrote David M. Gibbons, director of HUD's budget office in his comments to GAO. "Although we clearly are making progress, we agree that more improvements are necessary." GAO said that while, overall, HUD provided "clear and reasonable" strategies for achieving its goals, it did not identify strategies for achieving unmet fiscal 2000 goals. GAO lauded the agency's 2002 performance plan for including more information on the quality of agency data and an expanded discussion on HUD's human capital challenges. But neither the report nor the plan discusses how human capital management or information technology relates to HUD's strategies to meet the four outcomes included in GAO's review. Both the performance report and performance plan name the agency's management challenges, including human capital and information technology, as a high priority for HUD Secretary Mel Martinez.

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