oversight

Observations on the Environmental Protection Agency's Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-07-20.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

United States General Accounting Office                                                           Resources, Community, and
Washington, D.C. 20548                                                                        Economic Development Division




                 B-283032

                 July 20, 1999

                 The Honorable Dick Armey
                 Majority Leader
                 House of Representatives

                 The Honorable Dan Burton
                 Chairman, Committee on Government Reform
                 House of Representatives

                 The Honorable Fred Thompson
                 Chairman, Committee on Governmental Affairs
                 United States Senate

                 Subject: Observations on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Fiscal Year 2000
                 Performance Plan

                 As you requested, we have reviewed and evaluated the fiscal year 2000 performance plans for
                 the 24 Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act agencies that were submitted to Congress as
                 required by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (Results Act). Enclosure I
                 to this letter provides our observations on the fiscal year 2000 performance plan for the
                 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Enclosure II lists the identified GAO management
                 challenges and the EPA Inspector General’s areas of concern that the agency faces and the
                 applicable goals and measures in the fiscal year 2000 annual performance plan.

                 Our objectives were to (1) assess the usefulness of the agency’s plan for decisionmaking and
                 (2) identify the degree of improvement the agency’s fiscal year 2000 performance plan
                 represents over the fiscal year 1999 plan. Our observations were generally based on the
                 requirements of the Results Act, guidance to agencies from the Office of Management and
                 Budget (OMB) for developing the plan (OMB Circular A-11, Part 2), our previous reports and
                 knowledge of EPA’s operations and programs, and our observations on EPA’s fiscal year 1999
                 performance plan. Our summary report on the CFO Act agencies’ fiscal year 2000 plans
                                                                                             1
                 contains a complete discussion of our objectives, scope, and methodology.


                 1
                  Managing for Results: Opportunities for Continued Improvements in Agencies’ Performance Plans (GAO/GGD/AIMD-99-215,
                 July 20, 1999).




                 Page 1                                                 GAO/RCED-99-237R EPA’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
B-283032




As agreed, unless you announce the contents of this letter earlier, we plan no further
distribution until 30 days from the date of the letter. The major contributors to this report are
listed in enclosure III. Please call me on (202) 512-6111 if you or your staff have any
questions.




Peter F. Guerrero
Director, Environmental
  Protection Issues

Enclosures - 3




Page 2                                       GAO/RCED-99-237R EPA’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I

Observations on the Environmental
Protection Agency's Performance
Plan for Fiscal Year 2000
EPA’s fiscal year 2000 annual performance plan provides a general picture of intended
performance across the agency and provides a general discussion of strategies and resources
the agency will use to achieve its goals. However, the plan provides only limited confidence
that the agency’s performance information will be credible. For example, the plan has some
performance measures, such as reducing toxic air pollution by 5 percent in fiscal year 2000,
that address program results. The plan also lays out the regulatory, standards setting,
research, and assistance strategies, along with requested resources, to meet EPA’s goals for
attaining air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter. However, it does not address
data limitations in tracking compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. The following
figure highlights the plan’s strengths and weaknesses as EPA seeks to make additional
improvements to its plan.

Figure 1: Major Strengths and Key Weaknesses of Fiscal Year 2000 Annual Performance Plan

Major Strengths
• Presents goals that are generally objective, measurable, and quantifiable
• Discusses strategies and resources for achieving intended performance

Key Weaknesses
• Does not provide sufficient details on crosscutting goals and activities
• Provides limited confidence that the agency’s performance information will be credible


EPA’s fiscal year 2000 performance plan represents a moderate improvement over the fiscal
year 1999 plan in that the agency has made progress in addressing the weaknesses that we
identified in our assessment of the fiscal year 1999 plan. In reviewing the fiscal year 1999
plan, we observed that the quality of the goals and measures varied across the plan in that
they were not always well-defined or comprehensive enough to cover all important program
aspects; the plan did not completely describe how EPA coordinated with other federal
agencies that had related strategic or performance goals; and the plan did not consistently
identify data limitations and their implications for assessing the achievement of performance
goals.

Among the improvements in the fiscal year 2000 plan are goals and measures of generally
better quality. EPA has also made some progress in providing more general information on
coordination with other agencies. However, the plan shows little improvement in providing
details on goals and strategies that cut across agency lines. Similarly, it shows no substantial
progress in better identifying data limitations.




Page 3                                       GAO/RCED-99-237R EPA’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Environmental Protection Agency's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




The Agency’s Performance Plan Provides a General Picture of
Intended Performance Across the Agency
The goals and measures in EPA’s plan are generally objective, measurable, and quantifiable.
In some cases, the plan uses outcome measures--the results of EPA’s activities. For example,
one performance measure is to reduce emissions of toxic air pollution by 5 percent in fiscal
year 2000. However, most measures are outputs that provide less value in gauging the
important dimensions of programs’ performance. The performance measures for Superfund,
for instance, focus on the number of activities to clean up sites rather than the reduction of
human exposure to harmful waste. Additional outcome goals would provide a better basis
for EPA to measure its effectiveness.

Furthermore, in some cases, the connection between goals and output measures is not clear.
For example, in the “Special Analysis” section of the plan, EPA identifies improving public
access to environmental data by means of the Internet as a major management issue.
However, its performance measures for improving public access under its “Right to Know”
strategic goal are strictly output measures, such as how many times its Web site is hit and
how many pages of information are on the site. It is not clear how these measures show
improvements in the quality of the public’s access to information. To measure quality, the
agency needs to develop outcome measures for public access, such as customer satisfaction
with the usefulness of the agency’s data and the presentation and explanation of the data.

We also note that at least one mission-critical management problem--the need to improve
data management--has no performance goals. In commenting on EPA’s fiscal year 1999
performance plan, we observed that EPA could have improved the plan by adding goals for
implementing the information technology management requirements of the Clinger- Cohen
Act of 1996 or by referring to a more detailed plan that does. Under “Effective Management”
in its fiscal year 2000 performance plan, EPA states that it intends to establish a systems
modernization fund to provide resources to develop new and to upgrade existing information
systems throughout the agency. According to EPA, these projects must be completed within
3 years under a planned and managed process that includes a Clinger-Cohen Act investment
review. However, the fiscal year 2000 plan does not set goals or time frames for the
processes needed to make sound information technology investment decisions. Nor does it
refer to a more detailed plan.

In general, the plan provides sufficient baseline data for measuring its performance.
However, sometimes baselines are lacking or under development. For example, one
“Pollution Prevention” performance goal is to reduce exposure to toxic fibers by identifying
fibers of concern and addressing risks through outreach, voluntary initiatives, and regulatory
actions. The performance baseline for the goal, according to the plan, is the exposure level of
the public and workers to asbestos and other fibers of concern. However, this level is not




Page 4                                             GAO/RCED-99-237R EPA’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Environmental Protection Agency's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




identified specifically. Therefore, the baseline is of little value because the actual level of
exposure is not shown.

The fiscal year 2000 plan discusses the agency’s coordination with other related programs in
federal agencies, but it does not generally provide sufficient details on complementary goals
and common or complementary performance measures to show how differing program
strategies are mutually reinforcing. For example, under its “Pollution Prevention” objective
to reduce lead poisoning, EPA says that coordination with several other agencies is important
to the success of its lead poisoning reduction program. According to the plan, EPA has set up
a federal infrastructure, including the lead assessment and abatement training and
accreditation rule for targeted housing, and the lead real estate notification and disclosure
rule with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Health and
Human Services. EPA also says that it will continue to develop a number of rules that will
require close coordination with these Departments, and the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration. However, EPA does not discuss the specifics of crosscutting programs and
identify complementary goals or performance measures.

Another example is the “Safe Food” objective to reduce health risks from pesticides. In the
plan, the agency discusses coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and
Drug Administration, and Department of Health and Human Services to reduce pesticide
risks. The plan provides general information on the roles of other federal agencies and some
of the ways EPA coordinates with them, such as through working committees. However, it
does not outline specific fiscal year 2000 planned projects and strategies, responsibilities, and
products that must be coordinated for EPA to accomplish specific goals. Nor does the plan
give details on how other agencies’ performance goals or measures related to food safety
complement and reinforce EPA’s goals. For instance, the plan cites Agriculture’s role under
the Food Quality Protection Act but gives no details on the Department’s goals, strategies, or
work to develop alternative tools to help reduce pesticide exposure.

In providing a picture of intended performance across the agency, the fiscal year 2000
performance plan is a moderate improvement over the fiscal year 1999 plan in that it
indicates some degree of progress in addressing the weaknesses that we identified in our
assessment of the fiscal year 1999 performance plan. In reviewing the fiscal year 1999 plan,
we observed that goals were of inconsistent quality, and descriptions of how EPA
coordinated with other agencies were insufficient. In addition, we observed that it was often
difficult to clearly link individual measures to individual goals. Among the improvements in
the fiscal year 2000 plan are generally better quality goals and more information on
coordination. However, the discussion of crosscutting goals and strategies and the linkage of
goals to measures needs further improvement.




Page 5                                             GAO/RCED-99-237R EPA’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Environmental Protection Agency's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




The Agency’s Performance Plan Provides a General Discussion
of the Strategies and Resources the Agency Will Use to Achieve
Its Goals
The plan provides a general discussion of strategies and resources the agency will use to
achieve its goals. Starting with fiscal year 1999, EPA has combined its budget justification
with its performance plan. EPA now uses a uniform program activity structure across all of
its agency’s strategic goals. Using this structure in its performance plan, EPA shows by
account and key program the funding it is now requesting to achieve each strategic objective
and the objective’s supporting performance goals. By integrating the performance plan and
budget justification, EPA has provided greater visibility on what the agency expects to
achieve with its appropriations. Also, for the most part, the plan links strategies and
programs to specific performance goals and descriptions of how the strategies and programs
will contribute to the achievement of those goals.

For example, under the “Clean Air” strategic goal the plan shows the resources by
program that EPA believes it needs for attaining its goals for air quality standards for ozone
and particulate matter. The plan also describes a variety of regulatory, standards setting,
research activities, and assistance to states and localities that are linked to achieving these
goals.

The performance plan describes the factors outside of EPA’s direct control that could impede
the attainment of performance goals. In some cases, the plan describes what steps EPA has
taken or intends to take to help reduce the effect of these external factors. For example,
under its “Clean Water” strategic goal, EPA discusses its reliance on states to enforce
drinking water regulations and the need for states to have sufficient staff and resources to
carry out this task. The plan describes the financial, technical, and training assistance it
plans to provide the states to help them in enforcing the regulations.

However, for the majority of goals, the plan does not describe any steps to compensate for
external factors. For example, the plan discusses a variety of external factors that could
substantially impact on EPA’s ability to achieve its objectives for the “Waste Management”
goal. These include a heavy reliance on state partnerships, the development of new
environmental technology, and the commitment by other federal agencies, and statutory
barriers. The plan, however, is silent on what steps EPA proposes to mitigate the potential
impact of the external factors.

Under “Effective Management,” EPA recognizes the need to invest in its human resources to
ensure that it has the science and technology and interdisciplinary skills needed for the
future. To support this effort, EPA says that it will implement a workforce development
strategy to “attract, recruit, develop, and deploy EPA’s employees to address the critical




Page 6                                             GAO/RCED-99-237R EPA’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Environmental Protection Agency's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




                                    st
environmental issues of the 21 century.” As part of the strategy, the agency intends to
implement activities to improve the professionalism and performance of its clerical
workforce; help employees fully develop in their chosen occupation; develop leadership skills
in people throughout the organization; and improve managerial competencies of its line
managers. A significant component of this initiative, according to the plan, is the EPA intern
program which is designed to hire diverse, high performing individuals who will become part
the agency’s future leadership. The agency’s plan includes specific performance goals and
measures for improving the capability of the workforce.

The fiscal year 2000 performance plan represents a moderate improvement in addressing the
weaknesses that we identified in our assessment of the fiscal year 1999 performance plan as
it relates to providing a specific discussion of strategies and resources the agency will use to
achieve performance goals. In reviewing the earlier plan, we observed that the agency could
improve some of the linkages between its strategies and performance goals in the plan. We
also observed that the connection of strategies to intended results would have been clearer if
the performance plan had explicitly addressed external factors that could have had a
substantial impact on the achievement of the performance goals. Among the improvements
in the fiscal year 2000 plan are narratives that provide better descriptions of how strategies
are linked to performance goals, as well as the potential impacts of external factors. As
noted above, however, the plan falls short in describing the agency’s actions to minimize the
impact of external factors on the achievement of its goals.

The Agency’s Performance Plan Provides Limited Confidence
That Agency Performance Information Will Be Credible
The agency’s existing data management system is outmoded in many ways. For example, it
has been difficult, if not impossible, for EPA to aggregate data from many different databases
to present comprehensive information on chemicals, industrial sectors, localities, and
environmental conditions because basic data elements are not standardized. As a result of
data limitations, the plan provides limited confidence that the agency’s performance
information will be credible. Furthermore, information in the plan on the verification and
validation of data often lacks specificity. Consequently, it remains questionable whether the
agency has the capacity to obtain credible results-oriented program performance information.

For example, the plan describes the databases used for tracking compliance with
requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act, and the quality
assurance and quality control programs to ensure the accuracy and reliability of these
databases. Nevertheless, a number of states have challenged the compliance information in
the database for Safe Drinking Water. The agency has acknowledged the problem and
undertaken a major effort to address it. This data limitation, we believe, should have been
discussed in the plan.




Page 7                                             GAO/RCED-99-237R EPA’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Environmental Protection Agency's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




To the agency’s credit, narratives in the plan under the “Right to Know” strategic goal and
“Special Analysis” section acknowledge the importance of improving the quality of its
performance data. In its “Special Analysis” section, EPA states:

         “This information challenge facing us is so critical that if the Agency investments to
         reinvent environmental information are not effective, the Agency’s basic capability to
         implement performance management as required by the Government Performance
         and Results Act (GPRA) will be seriously hindered.”

Also, in the “Special Analysis” section of the plan, EPA talks about proposed actions to
improve data quality, such as the development of data quality performance standards for each
of its major data systems, an error correction process, and the establishment of customer
service performance standards. However, the agency has not set performance goals or
measures for these actions.

In discussing performance information, the fiscal year 2000 performance plan recognizes the
weaknesses that we identified in our assessment of the fiscal year 1999 performance plan and
makes specific commitments or shows actual attempts to address those weaknesses.
However, real progress is not yet evident. For example, in reviewing the fiscal year 1999
plan, we observed that the plan did not sufficiently recognize known significant data
limitations. The same situation holds true in the fiscal year 2000 plan.

Other Observations on the EPA’s Implementation of
Performance-Based Management
EPA is taking steps to improve its information systems. In February 1998, the EPA
Administrator and Deputy Administrator approved the Reinventing Environmental
Information Action Plan. According to the plan, EPA is to implement core data standards and
make electronic reporting available in the agency’s 13 major data systems within 5 years.

As a further step towards improving the agency’s information systems, in October 1998, the
EPA Administrator announced plans to create a new office responsible for information
policy, technology, and stewardship. This office would develop and implement goals,
standards, and accountability systems to manage and improve the quality of information used
within the agency and provided to the public. Although EPA stresses the importance of
developing and implementing the new information office, the plan has no goals or measures
for setting up the office.




Page 8                                             GAO/RCED-99-237R EPA’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Environmental Protection Agency's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




Agency Comments
On April 13, 1999, we obtained comments from EPA on a draft of our analysis of the agency’s
fiscal year 2000 annual performance plan. EPA expressed appreciation for GAO’s
constructive review of its plan, noting that it would continue to strive for improvements in it.
EPA provided comments on our observations that did not necessitate changes to our report.

In particular, EPA agreed with our observation that its “Right to Know” strategic goal needed
improved outcome measures for public access. The agency, however, believes that its
current measures are valid surrogates. Consistent with our observation, EPA said that its
Center for Environmental Information and Statistics is meeting with and surveying public
audiences to find out their information needs and access preferences.

The agency confirmed our observation that EPA’s performance measures for Superfund focus
on the number of activities to clean up sites rather than on reductions in human exposures.
The agency believes that its measures are appropriate because the primary focus of the
program is to clean up sites in hundreds of communities across the country. While the
number of sites cleaned up is a quantitative measure of performance, we believe that EPA
should attempt to include in its plan outcome goals and measures for meeting its objective to
reduce or control risks to human health.

EPA also commented on our observation that the plan was silent on how the agency plans to
mitigate the potential impact of external factors on the “Waste Management” goal. EPA said
that it is continually working with the states to implement the state-run hazardous waste
management program established by the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act. EPA
noted that it had requested $ 98 million for fiscal year 2000 to provide grants to the states to
implement the program. We believe that this is an example of the type of information that
EPA should include in the “External Factors” section of its performance plan.

With respect to data limitations for the “Safe Drinking Water” performance goals and
measures, EPA agreed that the performance plan did not specifically mention that states have
challenged the compliance information in the database for “Safe Drinking Water”. On the
other hand, the agency said that it does discuss data limitations and the steps being taken to
address the problem in the “Verification and Validation” section of the plan. In this section
EPA notes that “differing processes and methods among states can result in varying
depictions of the nation’s water quality.” While we gave EPA credit for acknowledging the
data limitations and undertaking a major effort to address them, we also noted that the plan
does not describe these data limitations or the concerns of the states about EPA’s database.
We believe that EPA’s plan should have discussed data limitations and their potential impact
on measuring performance in achieving goals.




Page 9                                             GAO/RCED-99-237R EPA’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure I
Observations on the Environmental Protection Agency's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2000




To help solve the data integration problems noted in our report, EPA said that it has
established the Reinventing Environmental Information program to implement core data
standards in six areas, such as locations, chemical codes and biological classifications.
Further, in response to our observation that the plan lacked performance goals for
implementing the Clinger-Cohen Act, EPA said that it chose to use a broader set of indicators
for its management of information. According to EPA, it adopted as its measurement
standard the implementation of the best information management practices of leading private
and government organizations. However, this measurement standard is not identified in the
plan; we believe that EPA could improve its performance plan by adding goals and measures
for improving data management -- whether they are based on the specific requirements of the
Clinger-Cohen Act or best practices that are broader in scope.

With regard to the EPA Inspector General’s concern about the lack of a centralized validation
process for individual security plans that we noted in our report (see app. II), EPA said that it
was within 3 to 4 months of fixing the problem and had coordinated a corrective action plan
with the Inspector General. Therefore, the agency did not see the need to provide additional
performance measurements for this area in the fiscal year 2000 performance plan.




Page 10                                            GAO/RCED-99-237R EPA’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure II

Management Challenges


Table II.1 shows the management challenges that we noted in Major Management Challenges
and Program Risks: Environmental Protection Agency (GAO/OCG-99-17) in our January 1999
Performance and Accountability Series and that EPA’s Office of Inspector General noted in a
December 1998 letter to the House Majority Leader and Chairman, Committee on
Government Reform and Oversight.


Table II.1: Management Challenges in EPA’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
                                                             Applicable references in the fiscal
GAO identified management challenge                           year 2000 annual performance plan
Environmental information: EPA needs more                    None. However, performance goals throughout the
comprehensive information on the condition of the            plan are linked to improvements to EPA’s information
environment to effectively set priorities, assess            systems. The performance plan recognizes that
progress in achieving its goals and objectives, and          “The effective management of EPA’s data is central
report on its accomplishments in a credible way. EPA’s       to the measurement of its progress in delivering
data systems are often outmoded and difficult to             environmental protection.”
integrate, and important gaps in the data also exist.

(The EPA Inspector General has also identified this
area as a management challenge.)

Regulatory reinvention: Noting that complex future           None. However, the plan has performance goals for
environmental challenges will require fundamentally          implementing specific reinvention projects. The
different regulatory approaches, EPA has initiated a         “Sound Science” strategic goal has a performance
variety of actions aimed at reinventing environmental        goal to evaluate the agency’s reinvention activities.
regulation. However, the agency faces several                Another “Sound Science” performance goal is to
challenges, including helping its rank-and-file              implement 50 projects under the Project XL
employees understand and support changes to the              (eXcellence and Leadership) by the end of fiscal year
current regulatory system and obtaining consensus            2000. Project XL allows companies to test
among the agency's varied stakeholders on what these         innovative ways of achieving environmental
changes should be.                                           protection.

EPA/State relations: The states have become                  None. However, the National Environmental
important EPA partners as they have assumed the              Performance Partnership System (NEPPS) is aimed
responsibility for implementing most national                at improving EPA’s relationship with the states.
environmental programs on a daily basis. Despite the         Under the program, states and EPA set
importance of this partnership, the relationship has         environmental priorities on the basis of each state’s
often been characterized by fundamental                      environmental conditions and priorities. The results
disagreements over roles,                                    of these negotiations are documented in performance
priorities, and the extent of federal oversight.             partnership agreements that explain the states’
                                                             objectives and also establish performance
                                                             measurements to gauge progress towards these
                                                             objectives. The fiscal year 1999 plan had a goal
                                                             under the “Right to Know” strategic goal to negotiate
                                                             annual partnership core performance measures with
                                                             states. Also, EPA uses performance partnership
                                                             grants to enable states to better direct their funding
                                                             toward their most critical environmental problems.
                                                             Another goal under the “Right to Know” strategic goal
                                                             in the fiscal year 1999 plan was to identify measures
                                                             of success for the performance partnership grant
                                                             program.




Page 11                                               GAO/RCED-99-237R EPA’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure II
Management Challenges




                                                               Applicable references in the fiscal
GAO identified management challenge                             year 2000 annual performance plan
Superfund program management: EPA needs to take                The plan has no goals to address sites with the
additional actions to (1) ensure that limited resources        greatest health and environmental risks. However,
are used to clean up sites that pose the greatest health       EPA has a goal to address cost recovery at sites with
and environmental risks, (2) recover billions of dollars in    statute of limitations on total past costs equal to or
cleanup costs from those responsible for the                   greater than $200,000. On the other hand, it has no
contamination, and (3) control site cleanup costs              goal addressing our concern that EPA has used an
through the efficient and effective administration of          understated, conservative rate for charging its
cleanup contracts.                                             indirect costs. Also, EPA has not established a
                                                               measure for tracking actual cost recoveries
Related to our concerns, the Inspector General has             compared to potential cost recoveries for any given
identified quality assurance plans at Superfund sites as       period of time. With regard to contracting, in the
a management challenge. According to the Inspector             “Special Analysis” section of the plan, EPA states
General, EPA is not consistently using a scientifically        that it is “placing particular emphasis on improving
based, systematic planning process to take actions at          Superfund contracts, providing oversight of the
Superfund sites.                                               Independent Government Cost Estimates to ensure
                                                               cost effective use of
                                                               contract dollars.“



                                                               Applicable references in the fiscal year 2000
Inspector General’s areas of concern                           annual performance plan
Accountability: The Inspector General identified four          None. However, while the accountability issues are
accountability issues. Resources budgeted for                  not addressed directly, they are inherent in the
environmental programs by EPA headquarters should              various management improvements proposed by
be controlled and accounted for to ensure that they are        EPA in the plan.
used for the designated purpose. The advent of
performance grants giving states increased flexibility in
how they use resources raises new questions regarding
the extent to which EPA can be held accountable for
work performed by states and their agents. EPA does
not consistently enforce its environmental regulations
across the country. Without reliable management
information systems to measure this progress, personal
accountability is difficult to assess.

EPA’s oversight of enforcement activities: The                 Under it “Credible Deterrence” strategic goal, EPA
Inspector General has identified fundamental                   has a performance goal to improve the capacity of
weaknesses with state identification and reporting of          states, localities, and tribes to conduct enforcement
significant violators of the Clean Air Act and the             and compliance assurance programs. Also, the
Resources Conservation and Recovery Act.                       “Special Analysis” section describes actions to
                                                               correct the weaknesses. They include evaluating
                                                               and revising current policies, implementing quality
                                                               assurance of enforcement data, and reviewing
                                                               applications for compliance certification under title V
                                                               of the Clean Air Act.

Backlog of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination            In the “Special Analysis” section of the plan, EPA
System permits: The backlog of permits is a                    says that it has developed and is implementing a
nationwide problem.                                            multiyear plan to reduce the backlog. Also, a
                                                               performance goal
                                                               under the “Clean Water” strategic goal is that major




Page 12                                                 GAO/RCED-99-237R EPA’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure II
Management Challenges




                                                                 Applicable references in the fiscal year 2000
Inspector General’s areas of concern                             annual performance plan
                                                                 point sources, storm water sources, combined sewer
                                                                 overflows, new hardrock mines, and concentrated
                                                                 animal feeding operations requiring National
                                                                 Pollutant Discharge System permits are covered by a
                                                                 current permit.

Use of inefficient contract types: EPA continues to rely         A performance goal under the “Effective
extensively on level-of-effort cost reimbursable                 Management” strategic goal is to implement
contracts that essentially buy labor hours, not results,         performance-based contracting for 11 percent of
and place the burden of cost control on the                      EPA’s contracts.
Government.

Oversight of assistance agreements: Over the years,              None. However, EPA says in the “Special Analysis”
many of the Inspector General’s audits have shown that           section of its plan that it is taking actions to improve
some recipients of assistance agreements have wasted             the oversight of assistance agreements. Among
taxpayers’ dollars, and at times EPA did not get what it         other things, the agency is developing a policy for the
paid for.                                                        postaward management of grants and cooperative
                                                                 agreements by headquarters program offices and
                                                                 regional program divisions.

The agency relationship with contractors: A personal             None. However, in the “Special Analysis” section of
services contract makes contractor staff appear to be            the plan, EPA says that the Office of Administration
government employees. Federal Acquisition                        and Resource Management has prepared a
Regulation 37.104(b) states that agencies are not                corrective action plan that includes additional training
permitted to award personal services contracts unless            for project officers and a requirement for Assistant
specifically authorized by statute. The Inspector                and Regional Administrators to perform a
General’s audit work has shown that instances or                 management review for personal services. In
appearances of personal services contracts are a                 addition, according to the Inspector General, EPA’s
vulnerability that EPA needs to address.                         Office of Acquisition Management has developed and
                                                                 issued additional guidance on the prohibition against
                                                                 personal services.

Need for resources to enhance employee                           Under its “Effective Management” strategic goal, EPA
competencies: According to the Inspector General, the            has a goal to “ improve the capability of its workforce
Agency has recognized that one of its biggest                    by: formalizing a leadership development approach;
challenges over the next several years is to develop             rolling out a training curriculum to enhance necessary
and implement a strategy that focuses its attention and          cross-functional skills; clearly identifying and defining
resources on employee development.                               support staff career paths; and continuing to hire
                                                                 talented and diverse individuals.”

EPA’s security plans for automated information                   None. However, in the plan’s “Special Analysis”
systems: The agency attempts to assess risk to its               section, EPA says that it will complete corrective
information systems and minimize potential                       actions needed to address the Inspector General’s
vulnerabilities through a series of individual security          recommendations concerning its security
plans. However, there is no centralized validation               weaknesses in its information systems by the end of
process for these plans.                                         fiscal year 1999.




Page 13                                                   GAO/RCED-99-237R EPA’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan
Enclosure III

GAO Contacts and Staff
Acknowledgments

GAO Contacts
Peter F. Guerrero,   (202) 512-6111

Acknowledgments
In addition to the contact named above, David G. Wood, Edward A. Kratzer, Ralph G.
Running, and Alice L. London made key contributions to this product.




(160474)




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