District of Columbia:

Performance Report Shows Continued Progress

GAO-03-693: Published: May 15, 2003. Publicly Released: May 15, 2003.

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The Federal Payment Reauthorization Act of 1994 (Pub. L. 103-373) requires the District of Columbia to submit to the Congress a performance accountability plan with goals for the upcoming year, and after the end of the fiscal year, a performance accountability report on the extent to which the District achieved the goals in the plan. The 1994 act further requires that GAO review and evaluate the District's performance accountability report.

The District of Columbia has made substantial progress in its performance accountability reports over the last 4 years. The 2002 Performance Accountability Report provided a more comprehensive review of its performance than prior reports and generally complied with the statutory reporting requirements. The report included almost all of the District's significant activities by covering 74 agencies representing about 90 percent of the total fiscal year 2002 expenditures of nearly $5.9 billion. In addition, the 2002 report included the level of performance achieved toward almost all of the goals in the performance plan and was issued on time. As required, it provided the titles of managers and their supervisors responsible for each of the goals, and described the status of court orders based on selected criteria. Specifically, it reported that performance results for six agencies that had not been reported on last year, including the District of Columbia Public Schools and the Child and Family Services Agency, which together amount to nearly 19 percent of the city's total 2002 expenditures. However, the report does not include agencies and funds that amount to approximately 10 percent of the city's expenditures. Among the activities not included are the Public Charter Schools, representing about 1.7 percent of the city's expenditures, and selected special purpose funds, representing about 1.3 percent of the city's expenditures. Further, it reported that the status of selected court orders based on criteria developed in response to a 2002 GAO recommendation. The District has also developed a risk tracking system to monitor agency responsiveness to compliance with court orders. Although the report contains updated information for selected court orders, it does not provide complete information on the progress made and steps taken to comply with court orders. The District has also undertaken initiatives, such as implementing performance based budgeting, creating a performance management council, and developing data collection standards, that could assist in improving overall performance management. In addition, the District's performance reports could serve as a tool for identifying and addressing long-standing management challenges. However, using performance management as a strategic planning tool requires analyzing performance data, using the analysis to maintain a focus on outcomes, and providing information that is complete and well-presented so that it is useful to managers and decision makers. In this context, there are some areas in which additional analysis of the measures, related targets, and data contained in the performance reports may be useful to the District in planning and making decisions about resource allocation as well as improving management in the future.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DC issued a new Performance and Accountability Report in March 2007. In volume 1, DC provides an extensive description of outstanding court orders and the status of the city's implementation efforts.

    Recommendation: Information on court orders could be improved by reporting more information on the steps taken to comply with court orders during the year. Due to the substantial and often unexpected costs incurred in complying with court orders, the District should also consider monitoring these costs.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DC issued a new Performance and Accountability Report in March 2007. A perusal of the 2007 PAR shows that DC did indeed begin to develop and report on goals and measures for major activities, including linking performance to budget activities and categories. However, in some cases of performance indicator data, only 2004 actuals are shown and targets are shown for later years. Moreover, 8 major activities did not submit a PAR report.

    Recommendation: The District should work toward further expanding its coverage to include goals and measures for all of its major activities as well as related expenditures. Specifically, the District should develop and report on goals and measures for the Public Charter Schools and for selected special purpose funds administered by the agencies to provide more comprehensive information on activities. As the District's implementation of performance based budgeting progresses, it should link performance goals and measures to related expenditure information in the performance report to enhance transparency and accountability. The District should consider including such information for the 7 agencies that implemented performance based budgeting in the fiscal year 2003 performance report.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DC issued a new Performance and Accountability Report in March 2007. A perusal of the 2007 PAR report shows that data limitations were discussed in some detail within the detailed discussions of performance measures by agency (vol. 1), and vol. 1 stresses the need for data quality and internal review processes to promote it.

    Recommendation: In order to build on the progress the District has made in improving its performance accountability reports over the last few years, addressing data quality, and thereby improving the usefulness of the performance reports, should become a top priority. The District should continue its efforts to develop data collection standards and should distribute guidelines to all city agencies. Data limitations should also be documented and disclosed in the performance report.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Summary analysis and tabulation of data presented in volume I of latest Performance and Accountability Report issued in March 2007. The data is presented on the PAR report status by major activity and in greater detail on each major activity by performance measure. In many cases, the data is presented by target only, some target areas are N/A, and actual data varies by measure from presentation in 2004 only to presentation for later years also. The discussion by performance indicator, also, shows lingering data needs and improvements (e.g., see p. 28 and pg. 29). This is a good start and fills the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The District should work toward providing additional analysis of information captured in the performance reports. Reviewing the results reported for goals and measures and presenting a summary analysis of the data as part of the performance report could improve the usefulness of the reports in managing overall performance and achieving the city's strategic goals. Where specific management challenges are identified, goals and measures that are more clearly linked to outcomes addressing these challenges might be considered.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia

 

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