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Government Performance Site Failed to Follow Its Own Advice

A government website designed to track whether agencies are making the best use of their resources has failed to follow some best practices of its own, an auditor said Thursday.

A 2010 law directed the government to make agency performance information readily available to Congress and the public through a single website. The officials running Performance.gov have only gathered limited feedback from regular visitors since the site’s launch, though, and don’t offer enough information about how the site ought to be used, the Government Accountability Office said.

“While [the White House’s Office of Management and Budget] collected input from some congressional staff, government transparency organizations, and performance experts, the limited outreach to a broader set of potential audiences and the lack of usability testing to date means that OMB does not know whether Performance.gov meets users needs or how the website could be further developed,” GAO said.

“Not tracking all recommended performance metrics, particularly those measuring user satisfaction or establishing appropriate goals for certain metrics, may also make it more difficult to analyze the effectiveness of the website and to identify and prioritize potential improvements,” the office continued.

OMB agreed with GAO’s criticisms and plans to conduct its first Peformance.gov usability tests in September, GAO said.

Performance.gov fell short of many requirements described in its authorizing legislation, the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act, when it was first launched in mid-2011. Officials attributed the shortcomings, including a nearly nonexistent search function, to a 75 percent cut in the e-government fund, which pays for digital transparency initiatives.

The White House agreed to the e-gov cut as part of a last-minute deal with House Republicans in April of that year to avoid a government shutdown.

Performance.gov had improved dramatically by an October 2012 deadline but still was not fully compliant with the law’s requirements. 

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