For many years, a widely perceived notion of government inefficiency and lack of accountability has been a source of annoyance for citizens and political leaders alike. In 1993, Congress passed the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 1993 (GPRA). This legislation was the result of Congress wanting adequate and evaluative information that would assist them in making decisions about various federal programs (for example, the Department of Housing and Urban Development). Specifically, Congress was interested in having better information to assess the operations and results of federal programs, policies, activities, etc. Among other mandates, GPRA instituted a requirement that all federal agencies set goals and report annually on performance.
Since implementation, compliance with GPRA has been monitored by the Government Accounting Office (GAO). The GAO has found that many agencies have experienced challenges in effectively implementing the provisions of GPRA. Some of these challenges include inconsistent leadership commitment, difficulty in setting outcome-oriented goals, and ineffective performance and reward systems.
Based on the experiences gained and the shortcomings noted, Congress recently passed the GPRA Act of 2010. This new legislation creates a more defined performance framework, requires more frequent reporting and reviews, and is intended to increase the use of performance information in program decision making. The law also introduces consequences for “unmet goals.”
Clearly, federal agencies are under increasing pressure to improve efficiency and effectiveness in their operations. This legislation significantly increases their accountability to Congress. This will most certainly have a trickle-down effect on agencies receiving funding from the federal government, such as state and local governments, agencies, and federally sponsored nonprofit organizations. Leaders of such organizations would be wise to remember the adage that “mud flows down hill,” and should expect to see signs of increasing scrutiny and reporting requirements in the coming years.
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