International Variations of the "Performance Budgeting Theme" and its Austrian Variant

In its broadest sense, PB has been defined by the OECD (2007, 20) as “introducing performance information [PI, the authors] into budget processes.” Beyond this, however, there is little agreement on the type of information or on the stage of the budget process when it should be introduced, nor if and how to relate PI to resource allocation.

Since the 1990s, a trend toward performance management (PM) and PB can be observed in OECD member countries, in particular in those with Anglo-Saxon and Nordic administrative traditions (OECD 2007; Seiwald et al. 2013). In continental Europe (Germany, Switzerland, and Austria), Switzerland was a front-runner in terms of PB adoption (Schedler and Proeller 2011).

Global drivers for performance orientation in general and PB specifically were the requirements for parsimonious resource use due to needs to generate savings and increased expectations regarding public services (Hood 1991; Seiwald et al. 2013). Expectations concerning PB were to overcome perceived weaknesses of “traditional” budget management and include (a) focusing on outputs and outcomes in public budgeting; (b) being inclusive, i.e. integrating stakeholders such as politics, other governmental levels, administrations, and citizens directly and indirectly in public budgeting; (c) increasing flexibility for and accountability of administrative units (both core administration and decentralized organizations) through lump-sum budgeting; (d) facilitating multi-year planning instead of annual incrementalism; and (e) increasing transparency of public budgeting (Seiwald et al. 2013; Radin 2006; Smith 1995).

Austria’s outcome-orientation framework can be characterized as “performance informed” (OECD 2018). PI is systematically integrated into the budget and presented alongside the appropriations but it does not include formula-based performance budgeting elements. The budget structure implemented with the budget reform in 2013 is based on a program logic and incorporates PI. It consists of (1) five “headings” (across ministries); (2) about 30 “budget chapters” with up to five strategic outcome objectives, including numerical indicators; and (3) about 70 “global budgets,” each with an output statement for up to five core activities (Seiwald and Geppl 2013). These elements are approved by Parliament. For operational budget management, the “global budgets” are, in addition, split into about 200 “detail budgets” (e.g. for each prison, for key transfer programs, or a regional breakdown) which are presented in the budget documentation, but are not legally binding and cover operational objectives and activities (Meszarits and Seiwald 2008; Brandtner et al., 2013). The framework also entails impact assessments of new legislation, intensive performance reporting, and PM at agency and staff level.

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