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DorobekInsider: Seeking visibility in the federal budget process

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Government 2.0 has become quite a buzz word these days. To be honest, that worries me a bit — things sometime can become more buzz then substance. And I believe there are a lot of benefits to having government apply these Web 2.0 tools because it allows government to collaborate in a way that has been difficult previously.

But we’re now seeing folks who are using “government 2.0” as a hook for… well, stuff that isn’t really government 2.0.

As far as I can tell, a company named Primavers Systems has done exactly that. Primavers today announced the results of its second annual government management study, titled “Government 2.0 – The Performance Opportunity.” The study, however, does raise some good points about how people would like more visibility into how money is spent.

Here is the top of the release:

The study shows that both Federal managers and average Americans are calling for management reform in the next administration. Federal managers leverage their inside knowledge to provide specific recommendations on how the next administration can improve. These recommendations point to Government 2.0 – the next generation of government that leverages technology to enable two-way communication with the public, improve management practices, and prepare the leaders of the future.

The survey apparently queried “average Americans” for their views.

With mere weeks until the next Presidential election, the study reveals that average Americans believe that 42 percent of U.S. tax dollars are wasted due to government inefficiency. The value of this “Efficiency Gap” equates to the combined personal income tax payments of approximately every taxpayer in the 11 states that comprise the Northeast. Surprisingly, Federal managers echoed the perception of waste, reporting that they believe nearly one-third of their own tax dollars are wasted or misused.

And they asked these “average Americans” about government waste, fraud and abuse. For example, why do programs and systems go over budget? To be honest, I’m suspicious about surveys that ask these kinds of detailed questions about the government budget process of “average Americans.” Let’s be honest — many feds don’t know about the budget process. It still often confuses me, and I’ve been covering this for a long time. (What’s the difference between an “authorization” bill and an “appropriation” bill, for example. They often seem to have nothing to do with one another.)

For example, Primaver’s release says this:

Americans, too, want to see more communication from the government. Seventy-five percent of Americans would like the government to notify them when a program goes over budget, why it is over budget, and what the agency will do to fix the problem. Sixty percent of Americans say the government should publish information about government spending online.

To be fair, I think the Bush administration and Karen Evans have made great strides in putting more information online. You check on the performance of many programs at Results.gov. And, of course, USASpending.gov, which lets people search government spending. USASpending.gov was a requirement of the Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008 (S.3077), sponsored by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

These sites are just a start — and there is a lot more to do. We still have the absolutely rediculous process where nobody in government can talk about the budget until it is released by the White House. And all the pass-back information that is all determined to be pre-decisional. It has always baffled me. Why not make all of that public. Let everybody see what was originally requested, what OMB put forward, and what lawmakers eventually passed.

It will be interesting to see how these things evolve as we move forward.

And I’m trying to get the folks from Primavers on Federal News Radio to talk more about their findings.

I have posted Primavers’ full release after the break.
As promised, here is the full release:

Government 2.0 Study Makes Case for “Change” in Government – Highlights Challenges of Transition from Rhetoric to Reality
Federal Managers and Average Americans Agree Poor Management Practices Squander at Least One-Third of Tax Dollars
CRYSTAL CITY, Va. — Primavera Systems, Inc., today announced the results of its second annual government management study – “Government 2.0 – The Performance Opportunity.” The study shows that both Federal managers and average Americans are calling for management reform in the next administration. Federal managers leverage their inside knowledge to provide specific recommendations on how the next administration can improve. These recommendations point to Government 2.0 – the next generation of government that leverages technology to enable two-way communication with the public, improve management practices, and prepare the leaders of the future.

Gaps in Perception – Cracks in Foundation

With mere weeks until the next Presidential election, the study reveals that average Americans believe that 42 percent of U.S. tax dollars are wasted due to government inefficiency. The value of this “Efficiency Gap” equates to the combined personal income tax payments of approximately every taxpayer in the 11 states that comprise the Northeast. Surprisingly, Federal managers echoed the perception of waste, reporting that they believe nearly one-third of their own tax dollars are wasted or misused.

Not a Lost Cause – Improve Management Processes and Tools

Average Americans and Federal managers also agree that the government must manage government programs more efficiently. Just 10 percent of Americans are satisfied with Federal management practices, and only 17 percent of Federal managers would give their agency an “A” for management effectiveness. Eighty-seven percent of Federal managers say some or all wasted tax dollars could be recovered through improved management practices.

Three-quarters of Americans desire increased visibility into Federal spending and management performance. Forty-three percent of Federal managers assert that non-standard management systems in Federal agencies present a significant obstacle to achieving this goal.

The Transition Is Not a Cure-All – Communicate to Achieve Results

Few Federal managers believe the transition to a new administration will result in immediate improvements. In fact, 63 percent believe that government performance accountability and reform will suffer during the transition to the next administration. Federal managers also gave the next administration thoughts on how to succeed during the transition. Their most-cited piece of advice? Listen to seasoned government managers.

Americans, too, want to see more communication from the government. Seventy-five percent of Americans would like the government to notify them when a program goes over budget, why it is over budget, and what the agency will do to fix the problem. Sixty percent of Americans say the government should publish information about government spending online.

Visions for the Future – Federal Managers Offer Government 2.0 Advice

Federal managers offer several pieces of advice to the next administration. When asked how the government can improve management practices, Federal managers provided the following recommendations:
65 percent suggest a standardized system for reporting and tracking project updates and changes
55 percent recommend a standardized system for reporting project problems in real time
47 percent say that providing project managers with access to the same project information at the same time would greatly benefit management continuity across the board

“Both average Americans and Federal managers are clearly focused on the challenges and opportunities presented by the administration transition,” said Nicole Styer, Vice President, Marketing, Primavera. “Echoing the presidential candidates’ call for reform, accountability, and transparency, this study outlines what needs to change if the change talk is to go beyond rhetoric. Without enhanced and standardized management infrastructure, no matter who wins in November, Americans will be served up more of the same.”

Methodology

The “Government 2.0 – The Performance Opportunity” findings are based on an online survey of 3,868 members of the general public and 382 Federal managers. The general public survey has a margin of error of +/-1.58 percent with a confidence level of 95 percent. The Federal manager survey has a margin of error of +/-5.01 percent with a confidence level of 95 percent. The study is available for download at http://www.primavera.com/connect.

About Primavera

Primavera is the world’s leading provider of project, resource and portfolio management software. Our industry-specific solutions help project-driven organizations create a competitive advantage by making better portfolio investment decisions, improving governance, prioritizing project investments and resources, and delivering tangible results back to the business.

Written by cdorobek

September 23, 2008 at 9:49 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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