Panel backs customer service standards for agencies

Legislation that would prod government agencies to be more consumer-driven with an annual review was approved by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Tuesday.

The measure (H.R. 404), approved on a voice vote, would establish a report card system to gauge customer service performance at each agency. Federal agency leaders would be responsible for gathering data using surveys and focus groups, which would then be submitted to and evaluated by the Government Accountability Office.

The head of each federal agency would also have to appoint a customer service representative to implement standards and oversee progress, according to language in the bill.

Performance measures would be set by the Office of Management and Budget, which would also issue a report each year on improvements and best practices at each federal agency, according to the bill. The GAO comptroller would also conduct an annual review of each agency, which would be made public and submitted to the House Oversight and Government Reform and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees.

The GAO currently does performance reviews of governmental offices, and follows up with a "high risk list" of underperforming offices that is also submitted to Congress. The new review created by the legislation, however, would focus solely on customer service.

First introduced by Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, the legislation was easily approved by the House Oversight and Government Reform Government Management Subcommittee last month. The legislation approved by the full committee alters the original language to make GAO's review annual rather than every two years. The bill now heads to the House floor for consideration.

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