HomeKeys to Greater EffectivenessMore Effective ProgramsObstacles

The Performance Improvement Initiative

What's in a name?

A name is important. For an initiative, the name should convey the goals of the initiative. The Expanding Electronic Government Initiative is about expanding and improving the government's use of technology. The goal of the Improved Financial Performance Initiative is to improve our ability to account for tax dollars.

The goal of the Budget and Performance Integration Initiative is not to integrate performance information into the budget. That may help make performance more of a factor in budget deliberations, but it's not an end. The end, or goal, is improving program performance on behalf of the American people. So, from now on, we're calling the initiative by its true name: the Performance Improvement Initiative.

Making performance a priority

Changing the name of the initiative is not enough to improve program performance. One of the most important things we can do to make that more of a reality is to be more transparent about our goals, our performance relative to those goals, and what we're doing to improve. www.ExpectMore.gov includes this information for every program assessed with the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART). Many agencies have information about program performance and improvement strategies on their home pages. But what more can we do to be candid and transparent about our performance?

The Environmental Protection Agency is leading the Federal government in transparency and candor. If you don't believe me, just go to http://www.epa.gov/ocfo/qmr/. There you can find out the status of EPA's efforts to improve air and water quality by region, as well as the status of its financial system modernization project and workforce recruitment efforts. It's public! I bet managers will be even more attentive to how they're doing because that information will be more accessible to their stakeholders. Now the stakeholders - the public - will be able to hold EPA even more accountable for their progress in improving the environment. That's what the intro to the report promises:

"EPA managers use this information to review results and deliver better environmental results to the American people . . . The [Quarterly Management Report] and the frequent internal management discussions on the data presented in it are intended to improve efficiency, identify best practices, and increase Agency accountability. By sharing this document outside the Agency, we hope to get additional perspectives on EPA's effectiveness from others including our state, territorial, and tribal partners who we work with to achieve environmental results."

I hope this trend expands to other agencies. Public candor and transparency are critical if we are to succeed in our efforts to improve government performance.

The scorecard is an example of candor and transparency. Status scores for three agencies were downgraded this quarter because they were unable to demonstrate that they use performance information on a routine basis to allocate resources, make management decisions, and improve performance. We are confident that these agencies have practices in place and we will be working closely with them over the coming months to strengthen and expand the ways use performance information in their decision-making.

Getting the biggest bang from our credit programs

The Federal government offers direct loans and loan guarantees to achieve housing, education, business and community development, and export goals. At the end of 2006, the government had $251 billion in Federal direct loans outstanding and $1,120 billion in loan guarantees. The Federal government is one of the world's largest lenders, but how well are we managing these investments?

This quarter, we are going public with a scorecard of the credit practices of agencies with major lending responsibilities. It's the first time we've graded these agencies, and the standards are ambitious. We have asked each major lending agency to develop and implement strategies to improve risk estimates and reduce the cost of lending by:

  • Establishing and monitoring risk factors to ensure that credit assistance gets to the intended borrowers at an acceptable level of risk to the taxpayer.
  • Improving management of Federal assets through lending policy and procedures, from underwriting to debt collection.
  • Using effective information reporting to manage credit programs and ensure portfolio risk is within acceptable levels.
  • Reducing costs by setting benchmarks and goals, and reaching those goals.
  • Meeting or exceeding industry standards for customer satisfaction.

The goal of the initiative is to help agencies achieve the goals of their lending programs in the most efficient way possible. Each agency has adopted an improvement plan that, if implemented, will help us achieve this goal.