Improving Performance-Based Accountability for Public Services

RAND Congressional Briefing Series


Brian Stecher

Associate Director, RAND Education

Performance-based accountability systems (PBASs) link financial or other incentives to measured performance as a means of improving services to the public. But little has been known about whether such systems actually achieve their goals.

RAND examined PBASs in five sectors—child care, education, health care, public health emergency preparedness, and transportation—and found that effective accountability systems, regardless of sector, require

  • a goal that is widely shared
  • measures that are unambiguous and easy to observe
  • incentives that apply to individuals or organizations that can control the performance measured
  • incentives that are meaningful to those being incentivized
  • few competing interests or requirements
  • adequate resources to design, implement, and operate the PBAS.

The briefing will be of interest to those who develop and implement accountability systems as well as policymakers and their staffs who are charged with evaluating or deciding whether to adopt a PBAS.

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