The Bush Administration sounds fed up with criticism of its e-government initiatives – Congress has blocked funds proposed for several projects in the past. They’ve published a rebuttal to some FAQs, including this one, under the catchy title of results.gov:
MYTH: E-Gov initiatives haven’t improved services to citizens.
FACT: E-Gov initiatives have made it easier for Americans to access government services and find information about federal programs. For example, GovBenefits.gov provides citizens a single point of access to government benefits and services. To date, the initiative has provided information to more than 22 million citizens and generated over 5 million referrals to agency benefit programs. Prior to the launch of GovBenfits.gov, citizens had to search multiple agency websites in efforts to locate federal benefits.
E-Gov initiatives have also made it easier for citizens and businesses to pay their taxes online. With IRS Free File, eligible taxpayers can prepare and electronically file their tax returns over the Internet using commercial software for free. IRS has received more than 15 million tax returns through the initiative resulting in processing cost-savings of more than $32 million.
The Expanding Electronic Tax Products for Businesses (EETPB) initiative aims to reduce the tax-reporting burden on businesses while improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations. Since the inception of EETPB (and through July 2006), employers have filed over 5.2 million SS-4 forms online to obtain Employer Identification Numbers (EIN) electronically. Furthermore, businesses can access a range of tax forms online (e.g., 94x, 1120, 990), resulting in reduced burden and increased government efficiency.
Grants.gov is the Federal Government’s single website for over 1,000 grant programs that award more than $400 billion annually. In FY 2006, 75 percent of all Federal discretionary grant opportunities (2,011 out of 2,678) were available for electronic application submission via Grants.gov, and grantees submitted more than 80,000 applications through Grants.gov. This is a 31% increase over the number of opportunities that were available for electronic application submission in FY 2005 (44%).
Whilst I was looking at this factsheet, I was pretty surprised to come across another site, ExpectMore.gov. It’s a reasonable facsimile of the UK’s OGC reviews except for the fact that you can see a list of programmes that are peforming and those that are not. Here are the findings from one, General Services Administration – National Information Technology Solutions:
Results Not Demonstrated
A rating of Results Not Demonstrated (RND) indicates that a program has not been able to develop acceptable performance goals or collect data to determine whether it is performing.
* The assessment found that the program is useful to federal agencies that do not have in-house expertise to acquire information technology (IT) products or services. However, the program must better demonstrate the value it provides to customer agencies.
* The program must develop long-term outcome goals and efficiency measures which are comparable to other federal agencies or the private sector. While the program does have annual goals, it must develop annual goals which measure the savings and quality improvement that agencies achieve through use of this program.
And, for comparison, here’s a programme rated as “not effective” as opposed to “results not demonstrated”
Programs receiving this rating are not using your tax dollars effectively. Ineffective programs have been unable to achieve results due to a lack of clarity regarding the program’s purpose or goals, poor management, or some other significant weakness.
* Performance goals have been created, but progress has not been adequately assessed. The program measures performance by estimating additional natural gas reserves attributable to technologies developed by the program. The program is working to more clearly demonstrate the validity of its performance assessments, including through regular use of periodic, independent program evaluations.
* Actual additional natural gas reserves attributable to technology developed by the program have been relatively small. Moreover as noted by the National Academy of Sciences: “It is difficult to separate the contributions made by the Department of
Energy and contributions made by industry and others.”
* This program and other applied research and development programs at the Department of Energy are working to improve their estimates of potential program benefits and use that information to guide budget decisions. The program has made progress, but estimates are not yet comparable between programs because of different modeling methods and assumptions.
Who would have thought that the US government would be more open on this kind of thing than the UK government?
There are 5 pages of “programmes not performing” and 12 pages of “programmes that are performing” – which would make a mockery of the Standish Group’s Chaos Chronicles if it’s true and might give us something to think about regarding public sector project success.
What I think is also fascinating is that you get to see programmes that you wouldn’t even think to look for – Missile Defence (The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) mission is to defend the U.S., deployed forces and allies from ballistic missile attack. MDA is researching, developing and fielding a global, integrated and multi-layered Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS), comprising multiple sensors, interceptors and battle management capabilities), or Advanced Computing Simulation (The program provides leading edge, high-end computer simulation capabilities to meet nuclear weapons assessment and certification requirements. The program uses code computer models and experimental data to predict the effect that aging and other changes will have on the U.S. nuclear warhead stockpile.).