Symposium on Public Performance Data and Private Business Decisions: Introduction

AuthorArie Halachmi
Publication Date01 Mar 2004
SubjectJournal Article
/tmp/tmp-174CscQyzP0lFp/input 02_RAS 70_1 articles 2/27/04 1:00 PM Page 5
Review of
Symposium on public performance data and private business
decisions: Introduction
Arie Halachmi
Why should business decision-makers study government performance data? The
international collection of articles in this symposium illustrates the type of issues and
data that managers should consider in making business decisions.
Much has been written in recent years about the many reasons why government
should measure its performance on a regular basis and why it ought to share the
resulting reports with the public. In the UK, some of these reasons have been articu-
lated in connection with the introduction of Thatcher’s’ Financial Management
Initiative (FMI) (Carter et al., 1995), Prime Minister John Major’s 1991 Citizen’s Charters
(Major, 1991) and the Value for Money/Best Value (VFM/BV) scheme of the Blair
Administration (Halachmi, 2000). In the United States, similar reasons have been
argued in connection with the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993
(GPRA) which mandates annual reporting of performance for federal agencies
(Halachmi, 2002). Corresponding language is found in connection with related
initiatives to institutionalize performance measurement at the state and local levels
of government in the USA. Interestingly enough, some of these reasons have been
articulated in the GPRA. Hence, the GPRA starts by presenting a list of ‘findings’ from
which the ‘purpose’ of the law is derived. This, by itself, is an uncommon practice when
it comes to most other laws passed by the US Congress. According to the GPRA:
(a) Findings. The Congress finds that
(1) waste and inefficiency in Federal programs undermine the confidence of the
American people in the Government and reduces the Federal Government’s
ability to address adequately vital public needs;
Professor Arie Halachmi is a Research Associate at Zhongshan University, China, and Professor of
Public Management at Tennessee State University, USA. CDU: 65.012.3
Copyright © 2004 IIAS, SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi)
Vol 70(1):5–13 [DOI:10.1177/0020852304041227]

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6 International Review of Administrative Sciences 70(1)
(2) Federal managers are seriously disadvantaged in their efforts to improve
program efficiency and effectiveness, because of insufficient articulation of
program goals and inadequate information on program performance; and
(3) congressional policymaking, spending decisions and program oversight are
seriously handicapped by insufficient attention to program performance and
(b) Purposes. The purposes of this Act are to
(1) improve the confidence of the American people in the capability of the Federal
Government, by systematically holding Federal agencies accountable for
achieving program results;
(2) initiate program performance reform with a series of pilot projects in setting
program goals, measuring program performance against those goals, and
reporting publicly on their progress;
(3) improve Federal program effectiveness and public accountability by promoting a
new focus on results, service quality, and customer satisfaction;
(4) help Federal managers improve service delivery, by requiring that they plan for
meeting program objectives and by providing them with information about
program results and service quality;
(5) improve congressional decision-making by providing more objective information
on achieving statutory objectives, and on the relative effectiveness and efficiency
of Federal programs and spending; and
(6) improve internal management of the Federal Government. (GPRA, 1993)
As tax-payers, members of the business community should be concerned just as
much as other tax-payers about the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of
those using the public’s money. However, one must ask why the business community
should be concerned about the quality of government performance data or about
which aspects of government performance are covered by regular official reports.
Should not business decision-makers be interested in government activities and
reports about performance just for the sake of supporting good government — a
factor that is always in the interest of business? At face value, this question seems
simple but this superficial impression is misleading. As will be illustrated by the
various contributions to this symposium, there are many other reasons why business
executives should be interested in learning about various aspects of government
performance and why they need to ascertain the quality of government performance
reports. The salient and well-developed interest shown by the not-for-profit sector in
government performance data supports the proposition advanced by this collection
of articles: business managers should study government performance data for their
own good. This interest of non-profit organizations is well illustrated by a report
issued by OMB Watch, an organization that serves the interests of not-for-profit
organizations. In the OMB Watch report for 2000 (OMB Watch, 2000), not-for-profit
entities ask for a say and complain about not having enough say about what is
reported by government and about how government is measuring performance. Is
there a compelling reason why business entities should take a different position from
that of their counterparts in the non-profit sector?
Government performance data can provide business executives with important
intelligence about the communities they serve or the localities where they have

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Halachmi Introduction 7
administrative, production or service facilities. For example, the...

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