High Turnover Hinders Progress on Agency 'Priority' Goals

Leaders also need to share more information and beef up performance plans, watchdog finds.

The officials designated as point persons for achieving progress toward agency priority goals identified by the White House are hindered by heavy turnover, spotty information sharing and flawed performance plans, a watchdog found.

Government Accountability Office interviews with goal leaders responsible for the White House-identified Agency Priority Goals found progress over the past year but cited some lapses in agency efforts to comply with the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act.

“A little more than 40 percent of the APGs in our sample had changes in goal leaders between February 2012 and September 2013,” GAO wrote. “This level of turnover may be higher as the current presidential administration nears an end and goal leaders who are political appointees leave their positions.”

Another problem is that many goal leaders had not appointed deputies, the audit found, noting that the Office of Management and Budget encourages deputies to fulfill “the important function of connecting goal strategy with goal implementation.”

The leaders are tasked with reviewing progress quarterly toward the 15 goals—which range from confronting cyber security threats to spurring job-creating investment to encouraging strategic sourcing. But many agencies, auditors suggested, have not created “performance plans that link more directly” to the Agency Priority Goals, which “could help ensure that officials are evaluated on and held responsible for APG progress and outcomes.”

Many goal leaders, GAO said, cooperated with outside sources on pursuing the goals, but reported few mechanisms for information sharing, and most had little interaction with the multi-agency Performance Improvement Council led by OMB.

The auditors recommended that all major agencies appoint a deputy goal leader to support each agency priority goal and ensure that performance plans demonstrate a clear connection with agency priority goals.

OMB and other agencies generally agreed with draft comments, except for the Labor Department, which said the report was “misleading” in implying that the position of goal leader is new.

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