State agencies meeting 70 percent of performance metrics

Gov. Walker: 'We have really high goals'

State agencies meeting 70 percent of...

MADISON, Wis. - State agencies are meeting 70 percent of goals set out for them this year, according to a website created to show the public how the agencies are doing.

In a March executive order, Gov. Scott Walker ordered state agencies to create "performance dashboards" to create transparency in state government.

What resulted was performance.wi.gov, a website to track metrics for all 17 state agencies in Wisconsin. The goals for these agencies are largely of their own making and are not comprehensive of all of the agency's functions.

"The risk, and we talked about this at the time, the risk of putting it out on the website is exactly that question of people, not necessarily you, but detractors will say 'Aha, you haven't done that,'" Walker said in an interview with News 3.

A review of the information for state agencies on the site, some of which is recent and some of which go back to the summer, shows only 115 of 166 metrics, or 70 percent of targets, are being met.

"We have really high goals," Walker said. "If we set low goals, we'd hit them all the time. Even if we set mediocre goals, we'd hit them all the time. But we set high goals."

Some of the agencies missing the mark include the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the state's job creation agency. Information on the dashboard shows the agency is only hitting two of seven of its created metrics. Missed targets include not meeting goals for the number of businesses served and higher than targeted loan default rates.

The Department of Children and Families is hitting only half of its marks. Some of their missed metrics include not meeting a goal for timely contacts on child maltreatment, a goal to increasing child support payments and another target for some child placement rates in Milwaukee.

"Clearly, we're not doing a very good job as a state as a whole," Assembly Minority Leader Rep. Peter Barca said when he was informed of the numbers. "These metrics are just one measure of so many. At Lincoln Hills [youth prison], we know that we're not keeping kids safe, frankly, which is a far bigger concern than the metrics they have highlighted."

The governor said this is all a work in progress and that he is discussing the metrics with Cabinet secretaries.

"If we were 100 percent on everything, I wouldn't have much of a compelling case to even think about running for re-election," Walker said. "But if we're constantly trying to make things better and aim higher, those are things in addition to some of the reforms we'll get from the federal government that would make me inclined to want to run again."

There are some agency goals that are listed on the site as "in progress." When those are factored in, still a quarter of goals are being missed.

Agency spokespeople, when contacted about why the metrics were being missed and what efforts were taking to correct them, defended their performance

WEDC spokesman Mark Maley said goals are set for the agency at the beginning of the fiscal year, and the dashboard is utilized "as an important progress report to achieve those annual targets." 

"WEDC's main focus is ensuring that we achieve our targets by the end of the fiscal year, and that's exactly what happened in FY16, as WEDC met the full-year goals in each of the seven areas in the dashboard," Maley said.

A spokesman for the Department of Children and Families said the governor asked agencies to set "aspirational goals." 

"Responding to the Governor’s request, DCF set goals that would be difficult to attain, but through focused efforts we believed could be reached over time," said spokesman Joe Scialfa. "Currently, 10 of the 12 metrics set by DCF are either holding steady or trending in a positive direction."

Other state agencies were also defending some of the metrics they were missing.

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection was not hitting a goal of having 90 percent of food inspections performed on time.

A spokesman said that function was transferred to DATCP from the Department of Health Services on July 1.

"The merger has led to an expenditure of time on cross-training instead of inspection," said spokesman Bill Cosh.  "We continue to strive to meet our goals."

The Department of Transportation dashboard links to a site with a number of metrics including bridge safety and highway conditions. An analysis of those figures show the department meeting about 50 percent of the targets set out.

Patricia Mayers, spokeswoman for the department, said "While we may be meeting about half of established goals, we are trending in a positive direction on many, many more."

The Department of Health Services is meeting all of its current metrics except for two that have to do with youth admissions to the Winnebago Mental Health Institute.

A spokeswoman sent News 3 information explaining that WMHI is a "safety net provider" and that many counties use the Winnebago facility "in lieu of other community-based services." Spokeswoman Julie Lund said the department is working with communities to offer training in screening as well as grants to create more community services.

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