Finally, for the accountability system to be effective, it needs to include incentives for good performance (and penalties for poor results), for both programs and people. OMB says that the program assessments—good or bad—in the current PART system, for example, are not linked to funding decisions. Until recently, federal agencies generally have not been allowed meaningfully to link employee performance and total compensation. “Pay-for-performance” policies now coming into play, at least for Senior Executive Service members and some other senior-level positions (see Chapter 5), may enable the department to use financial incentives—a powerful motivator in the private sector—to improve program accountability.
The IOM committee takes a broad perspective on the accountability issue, one that distinguishes between “data” and “information.” Data are discrete facts; when data are organized, combined, and presented in ways that enables response and action, they become “information.” PART and the HHS strategic plan provide data. The committee, by contrast, endorses a higher-level, department-wide information system, described below.
The robust data, evaluation, and information system the committee envisions would be akin to an executive information system (EIS) in the private sector. Such systems collect and integrate selected data from across their enterprises in a timely way (monthly, weekly, or even daily). These carefully selected data provide the information needed to support a range of management decisions about
needed changes in strategy,
potential new programs or discontinuation of underperforming ones,
improved processes and program operations,
alignment of efforts across agencies,
resource allocation, and
measuring and reporting results.