Govt Perf Measures Study Results LO20469

Jack Zigon (
Sun, 24 Jan 1999 20:16:35 -0500


OMB Watch on 1/15/99 released a new study of the Government
Performance and Results Act (GPRA). The study examines GPRA's
impact on federal programs and its impact on, and involvement
of, the nonprofit community.

The report includes results of a survey of federal GPRA
coordinators, case studies of implementation in four federal
agencies (the Department of Education, Administration on
Children and Families, EPA, and FCC), a survey of nonprofit
organizations interested in performance measurement issues, and
interviews with nonprofit performance measurement experts.

The full report is available online at

The executive summary can be found below.

Measuring the Measurers: A Nonprofit Assessment of the
Government Performance and Results Act
January 15, 1999
Executive Summary

The Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), enacted in
1993, is the federal government's primary performance
measurement law. It requires federal agencies to create
strategic plans describing overall goals and objectives,
performance plans describing quantifiable measures of agency
and program performance, and performance reports containing
actual performance data. Although enacted five years ago, the
law's implementation is just now getting under way after an
extended period of pilot program experimentation. The first
strategic plans were released in late September, 1997, and the
first performance plans were issued in February, 1998. The
first performance reports are not due until March, 2000.

This report evaluates GPRA's implementation from the
perspective of the nonprofit community. Specifically, it asks
how important GPRA is to nonprofit stakeholders, how productive
increased involvement by nonprofit stakeholders in GPRA would
be, and to what extent nonprofit stakeholders or nonprofit
performance measurement experts have influenced GPRA's
implementation thus far.

These questions were addressed in a series of case studies of
GPRA implementation in four federal agencies (The
Administration on Children and Families, the Department of
Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Federal
Communications Commission), a survey of cabinet-level GPRA
coordinators, a survey of nonprofit organizations, and a
mini-survey of nonprofit performance measurement experts.

These analyses indicated that:

* GPRA may have a strong and growing influence on federal
programs of concern to nonprofits and a small and growing
impact on nonprofits themselves. Our case studies and survey of
GPRA coordinators indicate that GPRA is being taken quite
seriously by most federal agencies. GPRA coordinators believe
that GPRA will have a significant impact on both executive
branch and congressional policy making, and will directly
affect agency budgets. With GPRA implementation still in its
infancy, however, its influence over federal programs and
agencies appears to be relatively small at this time. However,
GPRA coordinators seem to believe that its influence will grow.
Its influence over nonprofits themselves, many of which receive
federal funding to implement federal programs, may also grow
over time, though this impact may be slowed by layers of state
and local government lying between federal agencies and many
nonprofit service delivery agencies.

* Increased involvement by nonprofit stakeholders in GPRA is
needed. Our limited analysis of a select number of performance
measures in the plans of four federal agencies confirmed that
increased nonprofit stakeholder involvement is necessary. The
agency plans we reviewed contained several problematic
indicators. Some neglected or contradicted primary policy
objectives of nonprofit stakeholders. Some were insufficiently
sensitive to equity issues, neglecting the most disadvantaged
among the populations they served. Some plans contained targets
that were inappropriately ambitious or indicators of
questionable reliability or validity. Nonprofit stakeholders
might call attention to these problems if they were involved to
a greater degree.

* To date, GPRA's implementation has been dominated primarily
by internal, federal agency staff. Other federal players, such
as the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), General
Accounting Office (GAO), and Congress, played important, but
secondary roles. Nonprofit stakeholder involvement was in most
cases minimal, especially in the performance planning process.

* The nonprofit community appears to be only dimly aware of
GPRA, and its level of involvement has been even lower, but
there is considerable potential for heightened interest and
involvement in the future. Our survey of nonprofit
organizations showed a relatively high level of awareness of
performance measurement activity more generally, including
efforts emanating from state and local governments and private
funders. But there was only modest awareness of GPRA itself and
even less reported involvement in its implementation. This lack
of awareness and involvement was especially high among state
and local groups. Nonetheless, the vast majority of nonprofits
that responded to our survey indicated an interest in
governmental performance measurement activities like GPRA. Our
case study evaluations indicated, however, that generating such
interest will require convincing nonprofit stakeholders that
performance measurement efforts like GPRA are important.

* The interaction between those responsible for implementing
GPRA and experts in the field of nonprofit performance
measurement has been very limited. Our survey of nonprofit
leaders revealed that nongovernmental performance measurement
activity affecting nonprofits appears to be extensive, and
according to our survey of GPRA coordinators at least some of
those implementing GPRA appear to have reviewed some of the
research in the field of nonprofit performance measurement.
However, our mini-survey of experts on nonprofit performance
measurement reveals that overall communication and coordination
among governmental and nongovernmental entities imposing
performance measurement requirements on nonprofits has been
inadequate or nonexistent.

These findings imply that nonprofit stakeholder involvement in
GPRA's implementation should be increased. They point to the
following specific recommendations:

* Congress should mandate stakeholder involvement in the
performance planning process. GPRA currently mandates
stakeholder involvement in the creation of strategic plans, but
not in the creation of performance plans. If Congress attempts
to amend GPRA in the coming year, it should require stakeholder
involvement in the performance planning process.

* Federal agencies must let nonprofit stakeholders know that
GPRA is being taken seriously. Our findings indicate that a
major barrier to increased nonprofit stakeholder involvement in
GPRA may be the nonprofit community's ignorance of its
importance. If GPRA is playing, or will play, a significant
role in federal policy making, federal agencies should inform
stakeholders that this is the case.

* Congress must insure that federal agencies have the necessary
resources to conduct successful outreach efforts. GPRA was
enacted without any accompanying funding for its
implementation. In some cases this lack of funding has severely
hampered implementation efforts (in no case have agency
outreach efforts been sufficient). Agencies need to be
allocated additional resources for this activity.

Jack Zigon Email:
President URL:
Zigon Performance Group Voice: 610-891-9599
PO Box 520 Fax: 610-891-9055
Wallingford, PA 19086-0520 USA Orders: 800-244-2892

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