Allard mulls applying GPRA to leg. branch

A key Senate appropriator is floating the idea of broadening the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) to the legislative branch.

Such a plan is significant because it would compel legislative agencies to show tangible results and improvements in their programs. Data collected through the GPRA, which passed in 1993, have played a role in Congress’s evaluation of the executive branch’s annual appropriations requests.

Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, said he was looking into the possibility of requiring legislative agencies to follow the GPRA during a hearing yesterday on budget requests for the Library of Congress and the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The GPRA requires federal agencies to set multiyear strategic goals and measure results through annual performance reports.

“I want to look into whether we apply all of the formulating in the GPRA or just a part of that,” Allard said, noting that agencies such as the library may have trouble complying with GPRA’s requirements.

Allard indicated that he still needed to discuss this idea with his colleagues on the committee.

During the hearing, Allard raised concerns over the library’s fiscal year 2006 budget request, which totaled $628 million, an increase of 7 percent over the 2005 level.

Allard said, “While the areas for which the library has requested additional resources are important, it will be very difficult for this committee to approve [the] large increase since it is very unlikely the overall level of discretionary spending will even keep up with the rate of inflation.”

James Billington, the librarian of Congress, said that the request “supports every aspect of our historic mission and continues the transition into the new digital world.”

In addition to funding requested for staff increases, the library requested $41 million for construction of two additional book modules at Fort Meade to accommodate the need for storage space and cold vaults for “special-format collections.” The request would fund 4,365 employees, support pay and price level increases and continue several ongoing projects Allard said.

Allard scrutinized the number staff positions requested by the library; however, Billington said that it was crucial to hire more technically qualified staff to increase productivity.

In contrast, Allard praised the GAO for restraining the “programmatic increase” in its budget request of $493.5 million, a 4 percent increase from last year.

“GAO’s request is one of the more conservative ones we’ve seen in the legislative branch this year,” Allard said. “The GAO’s budget would provide for 3,215 staff [members] and would accommodate normal pay and inflation-related increases.”

Allard said he liked the GAO approach for its incentive and bonus program for employees.

“We lead by example to be the best in everything we do,” said David Walker, the comptroller general for the GAO. He said the GAO currently has more than a 90 percent client-satisfaction rate.

Walker said that, because of the increase in congressional mandates, the GAO is starting to have less capacity to address non-leadership requests. He stressed that since 80-81 percent of the budget is for people costs, a lack of funding immediately affects staff.

Staff concerns were among the issues addressed at the hearing April 13, when Allard asked Architect of the Capitol Alan Hantman what his office is doing to address employee concerns raised in a February article by The Hill about an employee survey that characterized senior management as dysfunctional and inconsistent. Allard asked Hantman about the impact low morale and employee dissatisfaction might have on the progress of various Architect of the Capitol’s (AoC) Office projects.

“High employee morale helps any organization to be more efficient and effective. It is important for anyone, be it the architect of the Capitol or any congressional office, to have employees who feel they are respected and that their hard work will be rewarded,” Allard said in an e-mail to The Hill.

“We take those kind of charges very seriously and investigate every one of them,” Hantman said during the hearing. “What we have tried to do over the eight years that I have been here is to create a human resources division that’s responsible not only to external clients but to internal clients. … AoC is a service agency, and the 2,000 people we have are our most valuable commodity.”

The Architect of the Capitol’s Office intends to roll out plans in response to employee recommendations. “There are several different action plans addressing several different [areas],” said Eva Malecki, spokeswoman for the architect’s office.

She declined to comment on the specifics of the actions. The agency will release the plans to employees first, since the survey was about their concerns.

However, according to a source inside the organization, employees have no idea the action plans even existed.

“Everything is the same as they were before,” said the source, who requested to remain anonymous in fear of retaliation. “Employees are usually the last to know.”

Malecki said the agency has been working on addressing the problems raised in the survey since results from that and other surveys were released.

Allard told The Hill in an interview yesterday that the funding of any government agency would be affected if employees were dissatisfied with the treatment they receive “if it is part of an outcome-based measurement.”

Allard added valuing employees is essential to running a successful organization.