OPM’s performance report shows more commitment than measurement

The Office of Personnel Management is clearly committed to solving the major challenges it faces, but its efforts to measure human resources management at federal agencies need improvement, according to a review by the General Accounting Office. Under the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act, federal agencies must develop strategic plans, prepare annual performance plans and issue yearly performance reports. Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., asked GAO to assess the largest agencies' fiscal 2000 performance reports and fiscal 2002 performance plans and determine how well they had achieved their key goals. OPM formulates and issues human resources policies and helps agencies attract and retain employees, a role that is critical to agency efforts, said the report, "OPM: Status of Achieving Key Outcomes and Addressing Major Management Challenges"(GAO-01-884). GAO acknowledged that OPM's mission is difficult, since the results of its efforts are largely outside its direct control. Still, GAO criticized OPM for failing to develop measures that gauge the skill level of the federal workforce and assess how often federal employees are held accountable for their performance. In January, GAO identified workforce management as a major management problem in the federal government. OPM's performance goals for fiscal 2000 included: ensuring the federal workforce has the right skills to achieve the government's goals; overseeing agencies' compliance with merit system principles; making sure employees are evaluated, rewarded and held accountable for their job performance; cutting down on error and fraud in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP); and ensuring that employees get timely and accurate retirement and insurance services. GAO praised OPM for revamping its mission to reflect the growing importance of helping agencies with human capital management. OPM reported progress in developing a model for workforce planning for use by federal agencies. OPM did not include measures assessing job performance accountability in its report and plan, but did include strategies to provide guidance on performance accountability to all agencies, GAO said. GAO's fiscal 2000 survey of federal managers found that few employees had been recognized for helping their agencies accomplish their goals. Although OPM's inspector general had a goal and some measures for detecting and addressing fraud in the FEHBP, GAO criticized the agency for not putting enough effort into preventing such fraud. OPM said it planned to include performance measures for this outcome in its fiscal 2003 performance plan. Overall, GAO concluded that OPM's fiscal 2000 report was an improvement over its fiscal 1999 report, and that its 2002 performance plan "continues the strengths" of the 2001 performance plan. GAO recommended that OPM make its goals and measures more reliable, link its internal human capital goals to its programs and establish a performance goal to assess fraud and error in FEHBP. OPM officials said they generally agreed with GAO's review.
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