Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Why Good Government Fails

Humans are self-interested. For example, the Bush Administration had some touted initiatives. One was E-government, trying to make better use of the Internet in government operations through various efforts (i.e., usa.gov, regulations.gov, etc.) Another was PART --which stands for Program Assessment Rating Tool. Both were well-intentioned, although I've had my reservations with both.

But what happens--Pres. Bush and his people at the White House have a great idea. So they call up the departments and say: "do A, B, and C".

The department says: "Sounds like a great idea, do we get any money for it?"

Bush: "No, make it happen using the funds you have available".

Department: "Uh, okay, you're the boss"

House Appropriations Committee says: "Why do you need these dollars?"

Department: "Uh, we had to devote x man-years and $y to the President's great ideas"

House Appropriations Committee says: "But that wasn't our great idea"

All of the above is triggered by this note in the House Approp. Committee's statement on the appropriations bill for 2009 covering USDA:

"There is concern that agencies are being required, after appropriations have been enacted for other purposes, to support E-Gov and PART studies. This diminishes, delays, or eliminates the implementation of the activities for which funds were provided. Thirty days prior to any centrally determined charges being applied to any USDA agency that are different from those amounts displayed in the budget justification materials, the Department must submit a detailed explanation' to the committees of the amounts assessed and the method for determining diose amounts. "

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