EGPA - European Group for Public Administration
Study Group on Public Finance and Management


"Performance in Public Spending”
Rhetorics and Realities of Performance-oriented Reforms in Public Budgeting, Accounting and Auditing

Overall information

The three year research agenda developed for the Study Group ‘Public Finance and Management’ (2002-2004), revolves around the modernization of ‘financial policy and management cycles’. The construct ‘financial cycle’ refers to the budget, accounting and audit systems used by a government. The policy and management cycle encompasses the planning, monitoring and evaluation process. The distinction between the two cycles is an analytical one, in that in practice both are interrelated.

At the Annual 2002 EGPA Conference in Potsdam, Germany, the Study Group developed an analytic framework for its research and publication strategy. The framework serves as a vehicle to define common research topics and questions. In this way it is used to align the contributions of scholars and practitioners around a theme from which an international comparative publication can be derived over the next two years.

Reforms of the budget, accounting and audit systems, and of planning, monitoring and evaluation systems, emerge from an interplay between political and administrative agents, and contextual factors in the administrative, political, and even societal environment. Examples are fiscal scandals, changes in political majorities, perceptions among the administrative and political elite of necessary or useful improvements in performance, etc… This triggers a reform strategy (e.g. reform legislation, pilot projects, training & consulting, …) which results in shifts in the budget, accounting and audit cycle and/or the planning, monitoring and evaluation cycle. Such shifts may include: linking strategic planning to budgeting, including performance data in the budget format, adopting accrual and cost accounting techniques and intensifying performance audits.

The 2002 meeting in Potsdam focused on comparative descriptive research, positioning or describing budgeting and accounting practices in various OECD and Central- and Eastern European countries. The meeting of the study group in Oeiras in September 2003 continues from the research agenda outlined at the 2002 Annual EGPA Conference in Potsdam, Germany. It aims to bring scholars and practitioners together around a fundamental question which has both practical and theoretical implications:

“ How can we describe, understand and control the reforms and modernisations of financial policy and management cycles in the public sector?”

In order to answer this question, the study group’s research strategy encompasses the following components:

  • A comparison of recent and ongoing reforms in public financial and performance management;
  • A definition of ‘reform implementation’ and factors that make it more or less successful
  • An assessment of the state of the art in descriptive, explanatory and normative research in public financial management.

The subject matter of the research agenda is: performance oriented reforms in financial policy and management cycles, or in their components. This includes the following phenomena:

  • the shift towards accrual and cost accounting;
  • linking planning and budget systems;
  • integrating budgeting and accounting reforms;
  • the use of performance information in the financial policy and management;
  • the shifting role of audit courts in audit reforms;
  • linking micro-budgeting reforms (e.g. performance based budgeting) to macro
  • budgetary decision making (government-wide savings, taxation policy, …).

For the above topics, both empirical studies of recent reforms as well as original or innovative theory papers are welcomed.

  • What reform strategies do OECD- and CEE-countries adopt when implementing reforms of their financial cycles? (e.g. pace, coordination, authorization, institutional arrangements, …)
  • To what extent are reforms in budgeting, accounting and auditing linked and mutually supportive? How does this affect their sustainability?
  • What requirements do the traditional functions of public financial management (financial control, legality, macro economic policy) pose to the information content and procedures of the financial cycle? How are these combined with more performance oriented approaches?
  • To what extent and how are budget, accounting and audit procedures integrated with strategic planning, performance measurement and policy evaluation?
  • How can progress in performance oriented (budget) reforms be ‘measured’?
  • How and by whom are performance budgets used?
  • To what extent have the budget procedures and formats actually changed due to progress in performance oriented budget reforms?
  • How does the modernization of the financial cycle affect interactions in policy networks?
  • How are traditional financial and compliance audits and performance audits integrated internally and externally, in order to avoid audit-deficits and audit-surpluses?
  • What factors affect the speed and direction of reforms in public budgeting, accounting and auditing?
  • What recommendations does the existing descriptive and explanatory research hold for policy makers and public managers, in order to implement reforms of the financial cycle in a sustainable way?

We encourage the submission of papers that report on explanatory research, suggesting which factors make reform implementation more or less successful. Both qualitative and quantitative explanatory research is welcomed. Descriptive papers should adopt a comparative perspective, trying to position different units of analysis (agencies, countries) along a reform trajectory, with a solid identification of the degree of implementation of the reform. The notion of reform implementation obviously touches that of ‘value added’ or ‘use’ of the reforms. Normative or prescriptive contributions should be explicit about the descriptive or explanatory research that underpins the recommendations put forward.

The Study Group does not limit its focus to the technical aspects of budgeting, accounting and auditing. It rather aims to investigate whether and how these technical aspects, support policy and managerial interactions in an administrative, political and societal context. The authors should therefore link expertise in a financial domain to a public administration background and/or managerial experience in the public sector.



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