Study: DHS, Pentagon performance reports are poor

The Homeland Security Department was "a day late and a dollar short" in posting its annual mandated performance review on its Web site in December, according to a new study of performance-based accountability for 23 federal agencies by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

While the department's annual review was posted online by the Dec. 15 deadline, a person trying to find it would have do "un-intuitive" searching on DHS' Web pages, the report said. Homeland Security scored only a 1 out of 5 for ease of accessibility of its report.

DHS also received a low score, 2 out of 5, for readability of its online performance review.

"A confusing numbering system and summary reports require considerable digging and cross referencing," the study said.

Overall, Homeland Security scored second to lowest in its ability to deliver information to the public on how it is performing. The Department of Defense scored lowest.

The Pentagon ranked poorly on report readability and on reliability of its data, the Mercatus Center said.

The department admits that correction efforts for reported weaknesses in accurate, reliable and timely financial and performance information are not yet in place, the report said.

"The Department of Defense financial and business management systems and processes are costly to maintain and operate, not fully integrated and do not provide information that is reliable, timely and accurate," the report said.

This is the sixth year the Mercatus Center has evaluated the performance reports the federal agencies produce under the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990.

"The annual performance reports are intended to identify how much public benefit federal agencies produce for citizens, and at what cost," Maurice McTigue, a Mercatus, study co-author, said in a press release. "Half the agencies we studied aren't meeting reporting requirements similar to those we now demand of publicly traded companies, which means we have no idea whether or not our investments as taxpayers are going towards programs that work."

Scoring highest for fiscal 2004 were the departments of Labor, State, Transportation and Veterans Affairs, with the Department of Commerce seeing substantial improvement.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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