Evaluating Government

As this article in the Sacramento Bee reveals, it is not as easy as one might think, but we must find a way to do it, and the note made of the Deartment of Parks and Recreation doing a good job in the 1990’s, is ironic considering the recent news of the secret surplus posted Friday.

An excerpt.

“An initiative was successfully circulated by the California Forward Action Fund titled the Government Performance and Accountability Act. This was, and is, an expensive effort that should have never needed to be brought to a popular vote. But it must. It is a citizen’s initiative that fixes a problem that government has been unable to address. Why did it come to this?

“Last year state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, sponsored Senate Bill 14, which would have mandated state agencies to develop performance measures through which the Legislature and administration could gauge the effectiveness of government programs. It passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously. Little of real substance passes the California Legislature unanimously. But this bill did because it was a common-sense approach aimed at fixing a serious problem – the inability to see real information reflecting how departments of state government are performing.

“Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the measure. In his veto message he contended that it would place an unfair and costly burden on smaller departments. Costly to have measures of performance? Why was it really vetoed? Let’s back up and look at the history of this issue before getting to the answer.

“In response to the early 1990s recession, Gov. Pete Wilson initiated a series of reforms including piloting performance-based budgeting. The idea behind performance-based budgeting was for departments to set goals and measures of performance, and then allocate the funds needed to meet them. Instead of starting with the previous year’s budget and adding to it, stakeholders and the public would be able to see exactly what was being accomplished, and reduce or increase funding based on those accomplishments or lack thereof. Each pilot department was to develop its own methodology. The Department of Finance was to be the coordinating agency for the pilot agencies, but it provided little direction to the individual departments.

“By 1997, one pilot department, the Department of Parks and Recreation, had made such significant strides in its work on performance budgeting and performance management that it was recognized as “best in class” in government by the nonprofit California Council for Excellence. By 1998 State Parks notified the Department of Finance that it was “poised for full implementation of PBB pending policy decisions by the administration.”

“In 1999, the pilot was discontinued. Why? The reality was that there were too many vested interests in the budget system, especially the Department of Finance.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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