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Monitoring the costs and performance of government programs
Government at the state and federal levels and sometimes local governments have a responsibility to monitor the cost and performance of the programs which they have initiated. These programs are funded by taxpayer dollars and taxpayers have a right to expect that these programs will be monitored in relation to their cost and their performance. Today this appears to not be the case as some federal government programs are constantly being reported as over cost compared to the agreements initiated. A new legislative proposal in the Senate S.1113 has been generated to require that departments and agencies monitor their programs for cost and performance.
Government programs at any level are not the problem it is having the proper resources and checks and balances to ensure compliance not only with the costs but the performance. Government programs have objectives when they are initiated but if the cost exceeds the agreed price an evaluation needs to be made whether the objective (s) are being met. This takes time and analysis by the applicable agencies and departments to conduct such evaluations. This type of activity takes time but it is something which should be a part of the routine activity.
There are many fine government programs and agencies that monitor them but there are others which seem to keep on being initiated without any real control over the cost and their performance. An important thing to remember is the fact individuals tasked to do monitoring activity are not elected but some if not all of the department heads are appointed with the approval of Congress.
Each executive department and the agencies which report to them have distinct responsibilities and authority given to them through legislation enacted by Congress and signed by the President. Clearly some legislative actions allowed some interpretation but the content of all legislation should require that any government program initiated as a result of legislative action be monitored for costs and performance.
Federal programs and there are quite a few the quantity of which is hard to determine is sometimes created at the legislative level with assigned responsibilities to monitor costs and performance. The legislative proposal currently in the Senate is a welcomed action but such action should not be needed for agencies and departments to perform their responsibilities with regards to spending taxpayer dollars. The integrity of departments and agencies which have examples of costs overruns and/or poor performance statistics raises many questions for which the public deserves answers. Costs overruns may not necessarily be the fault of an agency or any specific department if they do not have the resources to perform monitoring and performance activity associated with federal programs.
Granted the current economic situation with the current level of debt is causing some hard decisions to be made with regards to costs of government functions. Programs which do not provide have constitutional authority should be considered for termination. Programs which do have constitutional authority as a federal government responsibility should be properly monitored for costs and performance. I have a high regard for federal workers who provide a service to the public and while not all experiences by the public are positive I believe most employees want to do a good job. Failures in departments and agencies are not always their fault as some of the responsibilities lie with Congress in not providing the support they need to satisfy the responsibilities they have been given.
The expansion of the federal government through laws and regulations has been enormous in recent years some of which may have valid needs. The monitoring of federal programs involves having the proper regulations and requirements so the public understands the requirements. Regulations in addition to programs need to be monitored for cost and performance in meeting the objectives which they put in place. All functions of government involve taxpayer dollars and all three branches of government need to be aware of the money they are spending. Taxpayer dollars for any government function should be monitored by the department and agencies for the funds they receive. Efficiency in government is not a quality which appears to be in place in many instances but if true monitoring activities were actually performed in all areas the perception of the public about Congress and the Executive Department may change.
Congress has some responsibilities with regards to monitoring government programs. It is their responsibility to keep tabs on the funds appropriated for each agency and question the decisions being made especially if they involve costs overruns or poor performance. This includes not only the federal programs but the performance of the department or agency.