Monday, August 29, 2005

PART I: Wasting away in MBA ville

BrooklynDodger recently learned of PART – the Program Assessment Review Tool. It’s an OMB idea, which would generally justify cutting budgets. The Dodger will comment more in future, but here is the account of the process from the 2004 budget.

Most government programs have stated goals and some covert goals. For instance, the covert goal of the military is that the US rules the world. Here, OMB forces agencies to convert these goals into a numerical form, then uses that number to beat the agency into submission. It’s MBO. But in corporate MBO, the managers of the process and the subordinates both share a stated goal of making money by a product or delivering a service. In the PART environment, the managers of the process are hostile to government outside the military and Homeland Security.

NIOSH, OSHA and MSHA are currently struggling to improve their rating from adequate, putting them above the line were half of government programs were rated “results not demonstrated,” and 5% rated “ineffective.”

…the Administration plans to review approximately one-fifth of all federal programs every year, so that by the 2008 budget submission every program will have been evaluated using this tool. For this year, OMB completed reviews for 234 diverse programs as a representative sample of government programs, as well as to test the flexibility of the PART. Chosen programs vary by type (such as regulatory, grants, or direct assistance), as well as size. To test how well the PART would confirm expectations, some programs generally considered effective (such as the National Weather Service) were included, as well as some widely criticized as less effective, (such as compliance with the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)). Finally, several items of great interest to the President or the Congress were selected, such as programs scheduled for reauthorization this year.

The PART’s approximately 30 questions (the number varies depending on the type of program being evaluated) ask for information which responsible federal managers should be able to provide. For instance:

Is the program designed to have a significant impact in addressing the intended interest, problem,or need?
Are federal managers and program partners (grantees, sub-grantees, contractors, etc.) held
accountable for cost, schedule, and performance results?
Has the program taken meaningful steps to address its management deficiencies?
• Does the program have a limited number of specific, ambitious long-term performance goals that focus on outcomes and meaningfully reflect the purpose of the program?
Does the program (including program partners) achieve its annual performance goals?

The burden is on the program to demonstrate performance. Absent solid evidence to support a positive answer, the answer is deemed not favorable and the program receives a lower rating. The requirement of hard evidence fulfills the principle that federal managers must be held accountable for proving their programs are well designed and well managed.

Programs must also prove they are working. Programs that cannot demonstrate they are achieving results either because they have failed to establish adequate performance measures, or have no supportive performance data show a rating of Results Not Demonstrated. The other ratings are, in descending order: Effective, Moderately Effective, Adequate, and Ineffective. For more information on how the PART is used see the sidebar entitled “How the PART Works” in this chapter. Even greater detail is provided in the Performance and Management Assessments volume.

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