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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Labor, Transportation, VA win kudos for performance reports

The Labor, Transportation and Veterans Affairs departments won accolades for the transparency and accountability of their reports on their performance Tuesday, as officials discussed the possibility that such data could be linked more closely with budget submissions in future years.

The three agencies earned top rankings for overall reporting, transparency and leadership on an annual evaluation of agencies' performance and accountability reports conducted by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The same agencies were among those at the top of the list last year, too.

The center judges the agencies' reports on their activities, rather than the activities themselves. It found that the 10 agencies that scored "satisfactory" or better on their fiscal 2006 reports accounted for just 13 percent of federal noninterest spending, down from 15 percent the previous year.

At an event announcing the center's findings, researchers and officials discussed the possibility that the Office of Management and Budget will require additional performance information in the congressional budget justification documents that agencies send to Capitol Hill every year.

Some participants questioned whether the performance information would be removed from the annual reports and moved to the budget documents, to reduce the burden on agencies, which are sometimes asked to provide similar information in slightly different formats for the two processes.

But Robert Shea, OMB's associate deputy director for management, said removing the information from the performance and accountability reports is not under discussion, in part because of statutory requirements that it be publicly available.

Shea said it ultimately comes down to what information lawmakers want, noting that performance data "will only be useful to the appropriators if the appropriators want it."

He cited the Education Department as ahead of the curve in sharing performance data with the Hill, and noted that some appropriators have passed language requiring other agencies to use Education's format.

He said updated guidance for next year's performance and accountability reports will be issued through OMB's Circular A-11, to be finalized in June.

- Jenny Mandel, GovExec.com

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