Panel Paper: The Evolving Role of Performance Auditing in Helping to Address the Challenges of Governance

Thursday, November 7, 2013 : 10:05 AM
Mayfair Court (Westin Georgetown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Christopher Mihm, US Government Accountability Office
The crosscutting nature of the results that the federal government seeks to achieve is widely recognized and documented.  From food safety, to climate change adaptation, to cyber security, achieving effective results requires the coordinated actions of several agencies, levels of government, and often sectors.  Adding to the complexity of contemporary governance, these crosscutting results are achieved through a wide range of policy tools—many of them indirect. For example, the amount of annual revenue loses from tax expenditures are close to the size of the annual appropriations for discretionary programs. Equally well recognized and documented is the fact that the federal government has at best a mixed record in undertaking the needed coordination and collaboration efforts across the range of programs and accompanying tools.  On the one hand, there are a large number and variety of federal coordination mechanisms in place, including task forces and working groups, national planning efforts, and assigned lead officials.  While on the other hand nonetheless, experience shows much more needs to be done as federal performance shortfalls often reside in the cracks between individual programs and an overall “whole of government” orientation is often lacking.    

Since the mid-1990s, Congress, GAO, and others have argued that the effective implementation of Government Performance and Results Act or 1993 (GPRA) could be used to identify overlapping and duplicative program efforts and help address program areas needing better coordination and collaboration.  However, that promise was never realized.  For example, agencies’ planning efforts did not consistently identify other programs directly involved in achieving the same or similar results, program strategies (tools) were often not mutually reinforcing across programs, and the required government wide annual performance plan--after showing real early promise--was not pursued.  

This lack of progress in using GPRA was a major factor that led Congress to enact the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA), as an attempt to foster a more integrated and crosscutting approach to federal performance.  GPRAMA included several requirements and mechanisms intended at least in part, to help achieve the desired integrated and crosscutting approach, including what are now called Cross Agency Priority (CAP) goals, Agency Priority Goals (APG) with associated data driven reviews at least once a quarter (a.k.a. PerformanceStats), expanded strategic planning consultation requirements, and the creation of Early reviews suggest that while GPRAMA planning efforts are being used in many cases to reflect coordination efforts that otherwise may already be underway; they are not being as widely used to drive the needed coordination. This paper will (a) identify specific opportunities to use GPRAMA to coordinate crosscutting program efforts, (b) assess the overall status of the use of those opportunities, and (c) suggest some ways that GPRAMA implementation can be strengthened to better ensure that the coordination and collaboration needed to achieve meaningful results is effectively taking place.