GSA’s wiki platform is improving efficiency and performance, senior official says

Government transparency efforts should focus more on improving performance management, an Office of Management and Budget official said Tuesday.

Karen Lee, an analyst in the Office of Federal Financial Management at OMB, said open government initiatives should provide the means to "a more accountable, efficient and effective government." Lee made her remarks at the General Services Administration's annual Interagency Resources Management Conference.

Federal agencies have focused some transparency efforts on increasing government efficiency, Lee said, including the paymentaccuracy.gov website, which is part of a broader initiative to reduce erroneous federal payments.

Improper payments are made not "because the government is lazy or because we don't know what we are doing," Lee said. They occur "because we don't have an interoperable way to feed all the information we have" into a single source, she added.

But new initiatives are not enough to boost government performance. Federal managers need to change their mind-set, Lee said, noting that a 2009 study showed most mid-level managers think open government initiatives are unrelated to performance management.

Mary Davie, assistant commissioner of the Office of Integrated Technology Services at GSA and Lee's co-panelist, said performance management and openness are clearly related. She noted that public discussion would only improve her agency's effectiveness. Davie cited a wiki-platform GSA introduced in June to share information with contractors and the public, allowing the agency to better evaluate contract needs and increase transparency throughout the process.

"Why not open the dialog up beyond our usual community," Davie said, "there are a lot of good brains out there."

But GSA has only used the wiki-platform four or five times, Davie acknowledged.

By using a wiki platform to work out details of an upcoming contract, GSA was able to refine the proposal through the process of fielding questions and comments from contractors. In contrast, the standard process typically gives the agency only one cycle of comments, limiting the information GSA can use to update requests for proposals.

Davie acknowledged that employees sometimes resist adopting new technologies, in part because the GSA acquisition process is constrained by an array of complex rules. But, she said, focusing first on small noncritical solicitations made the transition easier.

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