Jump Starting Performance Management in New York State Government (Again)
Last month, the Spending and Government Efficiency Commission (SAGE Commission) appointed by Governor Cuomo issued its final report. One notable recommendation is that a renewed effort be made to improve the accountability of State government through the creation of a performance management system. New York has long been woefully behind in measuring performance so that taxpayers can answer the questions: “what does my state government do and how much does it cost?” The recommendation represents the third time in the past decade that improved performance measurement and management has been prioritized; let’s hope the third time is the charm.
The SAGE Commission recommends that 16 pilot agencies complete the implementation of their performance management systems, already under development, immediately this year. The goal is to bring the rest of the State agencies on board by June 2012. A small coordinating unit within the Division of Budget or the Governor’s office would manage the effort going forward. As the work begins, four points should be taken into consideration:
First, while agencies themselves must be engaged in a dialogue with the Executive to develop key metrics, overall administrative coordination and direction is crucial. It was in large part a lack of central leadership that derailed prior performance management efforts. A high priority should be placed on outcome and efficiency, not simply process measures. Time periods and reporting intervals should be uniform. Benchmarks and targets should be required in all cases. Technical support and training should be provided for agencies that need assistance.
Second, metrics should be publicly reported in one accessible document. A model for such a document is the Mayor’s Management Report produced by New York City on a semi-annual basis; NYCStat, the online performance portal for City agencies, is a good example of a web-based tool.
Third, performance metrics should be integrated with the budget. A key first step would be to reorganize the budget for the 16 pilot agencies to more closely align with agency goals and the programs designed to achieve them.
Fourth, local governments should be included in the process. Much of the State budget is aid passed through to local governments for locally administered programs. For these aid programs, the State should require reporting of key metrics that are standard across the State, developed, as in states such as North Carolina, with the participation of local government officials to ensure that they are sensible.
Bringing performance management to New York State government could be a significant accomplishment for Governor Cuomo. To be truly transformative the effort will need to be more than skin deep.
By Elizabeth Lynam