Thompson Asks of Agency Performance Reporting: “Are We Telling the American People What They Want to Know?”

Washington, DC ? Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Fred Thompson (R-TN) said today that the quality of federal agencies? first annual performance reports is mixed. “The better performance reports tell people about the real achievements the agency is making. The Department of Transportation gets it, and they should be applauded for that,” said Senator Thompson. “Others just don?t tell the American people what they want to know — that is, what real results are agencies achieving.”

Senator Thompson?s remarks were made in conjunction with the release of an analysis done by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The analysis evaluates the agency reports according to how clear they are to the reader, whether they demonstrate the agency?s benefits to the community, and the extent to which forward-looking leadership exists within the agency.

“The American people are growing more and more cynical about the way the federal government works,” Senator Thompson said. “If done well, these reports can help reverse that by letting taxpayers know that these agencies are striving to be innovative and accountable.”

The Mercatus Center “scored” the performance reports for each of the 24 major federal agencies. The maximum total score was 60 points. Three agencies stood out as the best ? the Agency for International Development (52 points), the Department of Transportation (51), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (48). The Department of Transportation?s performance report scored 17 out of 20 points in the area of transparency, which shows how clear the report is to the public. The Department of Transportation also scored 16 points out of 20 for its ability to demonstrate the agency?s benefits to the community, and an 18 for the extent to which forward-looking leadership exists within the agency. The lowest scoring reports were prepared by the National Science Foundation (21), the Department of Commerce (22), and the Department of Agriculture (22). The average overall score for the 24 agencies was 31.2.

“I am grateful for the Mercatus Center?s objective analysis. The Results Act is about accountability. It is the best tool I?ve seen to actually hold agencies responsible for what they do. I?m going to see that we use it,” said Senator Thompson. Federal agencies? first annual performance reports were due March 31, 2000 under the Government Performance and Results Act (Results Act).

The Governmental Affairs Committee is itself directing the analyses of the substance of performance reports by the General Accounting Office, the Inspectors General, and the Congressional Research Service. “This study does a great job of looking at the reports and judging their quality,” continued Senator Thompson. “The Committee also wants to know if agencies are meeting their goals. If not, we want to work with agencies to help them do that.”

The Committee?s analysis will dissect the performance reports to determine: (a) did an agency meet its goals; (b) how reliable is the data used by the agency; and (c) where an agency did not meet its goals, does the report adequately explain why and describe a strategy to meet the goals in the future? Ideally, the performance reports should provide an excellent source of information about what programs are working and which ones aren?t.

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