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Ranking Agency Transparency

By Ed O'Keefe

In an age when transparency is all the rage, a new report should catch some attention: George Mason University's Mercatus Center today released the findings of its 10th annual evaluation of the strategic plans and annual performance reports that federal agencies must produce each year.

The report does not account for agency performance, only for the quality of information reported. It assesses the report's transparency, whether it documents any potential public benefits and whether agency leadership uses their annual performance information to plan for the future. Researchers use four specific criteria for those three areas of focus to determine the most effective reports.

Agencies can score a maximum of 60 points and a minimum of 12. The departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs and Transportation scored highest, with Labor receiving 56 points, VA 54 and DOT 53. Homeland Security and the Nuclear Regulatory Agency tied for fourth, earning 40 points.

Five agencies made "meaningful" improvements leading to higher year-to-year scores: Energy scored 36, climbing 5 points; Interior scored 37, climbing 5; Education scored a 37, also climbing 5; and USAID scored a 36, climbing 4. On average, agencies scored a 36, up from 34.6 in Fiscal Year 2007.

Read this year's report here and previous reports here.

By Ed O'Keefe  | May 5, 2009; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments  
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Comments

What a worthless and wasteful column and effort. Without knowing what the criteria is... what good is this information? And without any accountability -- your wasting my time and they are wasting my taxpayer money!

Posted by: darmar40 | May 6, 2009 6:43 AM | Report abuse

RE: The Criteria
The blog post provides the links to more detail. If you visit the site you will see that the criteria and the rankings are extremely transparent.

http://www.mercatus.org/ResearchAreaLanding.aspx?Category=74

Broadly the questions asked and rated on a 1-5 point scale fall into three main categories of four questions each.

Transparency

1. Is the report easily accessible and easily identified as the agency’s annual performance
report?
2. Is the report easy for a layperson to read and understand?
3. Are the performance data valid, verifiable and timely?
4. Did the agency provide baseline and trend data to put its performance measures in
context?

Benefits to the Community

5. Are the goals and objectives stated as outcomes?
6. Are the performance measures valid indicators of the agency’s impact on its outcome
goals?
7. Does the agency demonstrate that its actions have actually made a significant
contribution toward its stated goals?
8. Did the agency link its goals and results to costs?

Forward-looking Leadership

9. Does the report show how the agency’s results will make this country a better place to
live?
10. Does the agency explain failures to achieve its goals?
11. Does the report adequately address major management challenges?
12. Does it describe changes in policies or procedures aimed at achieving an improved
level of results next year?

Posted by: cconko | May 6, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

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