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Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA)

Original Text

Effective Dates
8/3/1993 - Present

Reform Goals
Improve regulatory agency internal management and accountability for achieving results and ‘customer satisfaction’. It aimed to allow congress to make better decisions about agency budgets and programs by requiring new reports on agency effectiveness.

Requirements (What of whom?)
The GPRA requires federal executive branch and independent regulatory agencies to submit a five-year strategic plan and report annual progress on measurable goals to Congress. Agencies are to collect data on the outcomes of various programs (i.e. direct service, research, regulations, transfer payments, and contracts or grants). 

Oversight for rule compliance
Agencies send reports to the The Office of Management and Budget and Congress. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) was instructed to prepare a review of GPRA implementation for Congress in 1997.

Reform “Teeth”
There are no specific plans for how Congress or the OMB would take action on performance plans that show agencies underperforming against their goals.

Outcomes
While the GPRA spurred the creation of more data and reports, that information was rarely used by Congress, the President, or the public to hold agencies accountable for strategic goals. [1] As one budget official reflected, “Agencies have every incentive to make the measures trivial and uninteresting and unimportant because, as far as they are concerned, it is pure-make work, and they don’t really use them.” [2] The 1997 GAO review of performance plans concluded, “the lack of results-oriented performance information in many agencies hampers efforts to identify appropriate goals and confidently assess performance” and noted that changing organizational culture to emphasize results and outcomes continued to be a challenge across regulatory agencies. [3] They also predicted that it would be challenging to tie performance plans to Congressional budget decisions for agencies.

Commentary
In a review of the GPRA, Professor Marcus Peacock of George Washington University reflected that “Congress can’t legislate honest self-assessment.” [4] Reforms allowing agencies to establish their own metrics for success, with no consequences for poor performance, are unlikely to produce results.

References

  1. Marcus Peacock. "Improving the Accountability of Federal Regulatory Agencies: Part I: A Review of Government-Wide Efforts." George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center. June 22, 2016. Link , PDF ; United States General Accounting Office. Report to Congressional Requesters. "Results oriented government, GPRA Has Established
    a Solid Foundation for Achieving Greater Results." March 2004. Link , PDF 
  2. A “budget professional” quoted in Scott Lilly and Eleanor Hill, Broken Budgeting: A View of Federal Budget Making from the Trenches, Center for American Progress, August 2012, pp. 16-17.
  3. United States General Accounting Office. Report to Congressional Requesters. "The Government Performance and Results Act, 1997 Governmentwide Implementation Will Be Uneven.: June 1997. Link , PDF
  4. Marcus Peacock. "Improving the Accountability of Federal Regulatory Agencies: Part III: What Reforms Work Best." George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center. June 22, 2016. Link , PDF