Performance Plans:

Selected Approaches for Verification and Validation of Agency Performance Information

GGD-99-139: Published: Jul 30, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 18, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the approaches that agencies have proposed or adopted to verify and validate performance information.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO found examples illustrating a wide range of possible approaches for increasing the quality, validity, and credibility of performance information; (2) these approaches included a variety of senior management actions, agencywide efforts, and specific program manager and technical staff activities; (3) these approaches can be organized into four general strategies; (4) management can seek to improve the quality of performance data by fostering an organizational commitment and capacity for data quality; (5) managers are ultimately responsible for the quality of performance information; (6) GAO found examples of management communications and actions to encourage the needed coordination, resource allocation, and attention to data quality issues; (7) reporting efforts to build organizational commitment to obtaining, maintaining, and using good information and to developing the organization's capacity to do so can help improve the credibility of performance information; (8) verification and validation can include assessing the quality of existing performance data; (9) assessments might target specific measures in the performance plan or more broadly assess major data systems to identify problems that may affect the use of performance data; (10) assessments were conducted internally, built into ongoing work processes and data systems, or involved independent verification and external feedback; (11) assessments of data quality are of little value unless agencies are responding to identified data limitations; (12) communicating significant data limitations and their implications allows stakeholders to judge the data's credibility for their intended use and to use the data in appropriate ways; (13) in addition to examples of reporting data limitations and their implications in performance plans or other formats, GAO saw examples of efforts to improve, supplement, or replace existing data; (14) building quality into the development of performance data may help prevent future errors and minimize the need to continually fix existing data; (15) GAO found examples of efforts to build in data quality, including involving stakeholders, providing feedback on data quality problems, and using accepted practices in planning, implementing, and reporting performance data; and (16) within these general strategies are more specific approaches that agencies may choose to adopt.

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