Report City Budget

Managing for Results in New York City Government

A Review of Current Practices

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November 30, 2006

Accountability is the central tenet of good democracy and good management. Good democracy demands that citizens be able to call on their elected leaders to explain their choices and be judged on their achievements. Good management demands that the leaders that are called to account for themselves can apply the same standard by which they are judged all the way down the chain of command to the staff that directly provides services to the public. Where the chain is broken, the public is getting lower quality services than it should. This is the logic that underpins all efforts to manage for performance in government.

New York City has made many significant advances in performance management over the past decade and its practices are quite good in many ways; however, the City should strive beyond these good practices and renew its efforts to be a leader among cities by pursuing new policies and advancing innovation. New York City is a $54 billion dollar enterprise, and a fundamental question should drive improvement efforts: Is the public really getting all it deserves from government for the price tag?

To help spark some new thinking on how this question could be answered, the Citizens Budget Commission completed a review of the City’s performance management practices and reporting to the public about service quality. The review found that, to answer the question, the City needs to address five fundamentally weak areas in its practices. The remainder of this document is devoted to exploring these weaknesses more fully and presenting the case for improvement.

The CBC review of the City’s management accountability framework identified two major weaknesses that manifest themselves in five ways. City leaders should address each issue to improve their accountability to the public. The first and foremost weakness is that money and performance are not connected in the budget. The budget can be a powerful performance tool and the City is not using it for this purpose. Second, the City is not focused on achieving the results the public desires in every service area. Some agencies do an excellent job reporting results, while others do not. These weaknesses are demonstrated in five ways.

  1. The budget does not align with program performance.
  2. Efficiency measures are not a major focus of service performance.
  3. Outcome measures need more attention in some service areas.
  4. New Yorkers cannot compare the caliber of New York City’s services to those provided by competitor cities.
  5. Public perception of the quality of services is not adequately measured.

To address these issues and improve services, the CBC calls on City leaders to implement five specific recommendations.

  1. Connect money and performance in the budget – the budget should be reorganized to better track programs and program performance;
  2. Focus on efficiency measurement – measuring and reporting unit costs should be a high priority in every service area;
  3. Improve outcome measurement and reporting – leaders should push to develop and track desired results for every service area;
  4. Develop and present comparative performance measures – New Yorkers should be able to compare the caliber of their services to those provided by other competitor cities;
  5. Expand the use of citizen-derived outcome measures – public perception of City services should not just be measured by complaints but also by satisfaction survey measures.

Each issue and its matching recommendation are described more fully in the body of the paper.

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