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Increase Accountability

In a financially resilient government, members of the organization are accountable for not only staying within spending plans, but also for achieving results with their budgetary allocations. Further, recovering from financial distress will require accountability for implementing recovery strategies. This section describes strategies for improving accountability within the organization.

Performance Management
Change How Managers Manage

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Performance Management

Performance management is an ongoing, systematic approach to improving results through evidence-based decision making, continuous organizational learning, and a focus on accountability for performance. Performance management is integrated into all aspects of an organization’s management and policy-making processes and transforms an organization’s practices so that they are focused on achieving improved results for the public.

Performance management includes the concerted actions to apply objective information to management and policy making in order to improve results. Performance management uses evidence from measurement to support planning, funding, and operations. Better information enables elected officials and managers to understand stakeholder concerns, recognize success, identify problem areas, and respond with appropriate actions—to learn from experience and apply that knowledge to better serve the public. The GFOA, in conjunction with a number of partner organizations, has developed a full report on the essential foundations of performance management.  

Change How Managers Manage

Managers can be creative in finding ways to run their operations more efficiently. Often, it is a case of needing the right incentive structure, the right accountabilities, or the right amount of latitude, where the management boundaries are defined rather than specific management actions. Here are a few techniques to help in these areas.
  • Public review of budget variances. Rather than using central budget personnel to review department spending and cajoling departments into following their budgets, require that managers who exceed the budget report the reasons for the negative variance (and their corrective plan) to an authoritative committee. This could be a subcommittee of the governing board or a committee of the manager’s peers. The meeting could also be public. This might motivate managers to avoid a negative variance in the first place.
  • Ask them for ideas. Encourage managers to express suggestions, develop alternatives, and explore never-proposed solutions. Now is the time that those often considered but never mentioned ideas can see daylight and potentially succeed. The best ideas often come from the employees doing the work, who appreciate being asked what can be done to improve efficiency and effectiveness. 
  • Charter agencies. Charter agencies exchange bureaucratic regulation for freedom to act and results-based accountability. Charter agencies commit to providing measurable results and lower expenses. In exchange charter agencies are given more latitude – perhaps being exempted from certain regulations or given special powers. Best Resource:
  • Performance contracting. Under a performance contract, a service provider commits to producing a specified result. Performance contracts can be written between support departments and their customers, operating departments and the governing board, and for many other relationships. They idea is to develop a mutually understood relationship between “customer” and “supplier” regarding what the service objective is and to establish shared commitments to achieve the objectives. Best Resource:
  • Internal service charges. Often, departmental operating budgets are not impacted by the amount of internal services or assets they use. For example, if departments are not charged for the amount of IT services they consume from central IT, they tend to over-consume. The same basic concept applies to many other support services and even capital assets. Internal service charges should be accompanied by a “governance structure,” which is a forum where providers and customers of the service can discuss how the charges are structured, the cost of the service provided, the value received, and agree upon mutual commitments to improve service delivery in the future. Without a governance system, internal service charges may risk creating destructive disincentives such as under-use of internal services or fragmentation as departments create their own internal capabilities. Best Resources:

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