For years, advocates of good government have been trying to find ways to improve accountability, focus on results, and integrate the performance of programs with decisions about budgets at the federal level. Presidents throughout the latter half of the 20th century struggled to make performance truly matter-- with varied results.
In 2002, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) developed the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) to help assess the management and performance of federal programs. After thorough review and evaluation by the agency, the PART was introduced in fiscal year 2004 as an integral component of OMB.
OMB uses the PART as a tool to determine a federal program's strengths and weaknesses and focuses particularly on a program's performance. The PART is a questionnaire consisting of approximately 30 questions divided into four critical areas of assessment. The first set of questions gauges whether the programs' design and purpose are clear and defensible. The second section involves strategic planning and weighs whether the agency sets valid annual and long-term goals for the programs. The third section rates agency management of programs including financial oversight and program improvement efforts. The fourth set of questions focuses on results that programs can report with accuracy and consistency.
The PART sets clear, achievable, and measurable purposes and goals for federal agencies to strive toward. The finding and recommendations play a substantial role in spending and management of each of an agency's programs. The PART is a complement to traditional management techniques and stimulates constructive dialogues between program managers, budget analysts, and policy officials.
OMB has achieved promising results by utilizing the PART. In 2004, 50% of federal programs reviewed by the PART were categorized as "results not demonstrated," meaning the programs could not demonstrate whether they were having any impact. Just one year later, only 30 percent of programs reviewed fell into the same category, indicating that the PART was encouraging programs to focus on results. Likewise, the percentage of programs that were rated effective or moderately effective rose from just 30 percent in 2004 to 40.3 percent in 2005. Due to the program's success, a number of counties, including Scotland and Thailand, have already decided to integrate the PART into their own government systems.