Agencies improve quality of performance reports

Most federal agencies improved the quality of their performance reports over the last year, researchers at George Mason University announced Wednesday.

Since 1999, the Mercatus Center, a Fairfax, Va.-based policy institute at George Mason University, has rated the 24 agencies covered under the Chief Financial Officer's Act each year on how well they communicate their missions to the public and policymakers. Mercatus researchers rate agencies' on a scale of one to 20 in three areas: clarity and accessibility; demonstration of results to the public; and leadership in fixing management problems. The ratings are not designed to measure actual performance, the researchers cautioned.

While most agencies improved their performance reporting for fiscal 2002, the top-rated agencies are stagnating or even losing ground, while the poor performers are catching up, said Sarah Nutter, one of the researchers who assigned ratings.

Agencies' ratings are not directly comparable from year to year, Nutter explained, because Mercatus has toughened its standards. For instance, in fiscal 1999 an agency would score well on transparency if researchers could find any link to a performance report on the Web. Now, the reports must be easy to locate for agencies to receive a high score in that category.

The Labor Department does the best job of publishing clear performance reports, followed by the Transportation Department, Small Business Administration and Veterans Affairs Department, the researchers concluded. Labor earned a score of 40 out of 60 possible points, excelling at tracking and presenting data on costs. Mercatus researchers praised Transportation for a well-organized performance report that included trend data and was easy to locate on the department's Web site.

In addition to receiving the third-best score, the Small Business Administration made some of the most significant progress over last year, Nutter said. SBA's performance report featured a clear layout and used visuals effectively. The report also did well at describing the agency's strategic goals and accomplishments for fiscal 2002.

SBA's improvement is especially notable because the agency has been working hard to fix accounting problems that the General Accounting Office uncovered and outlined in a January report (GAO-03-87), said Rep. Todd Platts, R-Pa., who spoke at an event to mark the release of the Mercatus Center's rankings. Accounting issues led federal auditors to withdraw clean opinions on the SBA's fiscal 2000 and 2001 financial statements.

The Defense Department and Agency for International Development lost the most ground in providing clear financial statements, Nutter said. Defense ranked last, partly because its performance reports did not present any baseline trend data that would help the public compare its finances over time.

Defense is an example of a department that does "A" level work but earns a "D" for transparency, economy and efficiency, according to Comptroller General David Walker. "Obviously there's a lot of room for improvement when you're No. 24 of 24," he said.

Platts, chair of the House Subcommittee on Government Efficiency and Financial Management, said that he and fellow lawmakers are better able to work with agencies that present clear performance reports. Walker said GAO also appreciates transparent reports, but emphasized that the Mercatus rankings do not indicate how well agencies actually perform. "In the end, it's results that count," he said.

To see the complete rankings, visit the Mercatus Web site.

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:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

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