In the German-speaking countries, the concept of performance budgeting occurred in the mid-1990s as an element of the countries’ broader NPM-concepts, namely the “new steering model” (Neues Steuerungsmodell) in Germany and “outcome-oriented steering” (Wirkungsorientierte Verwaltungsführung) in Switzerland, which also had influences on Austria. The concepts share the shift in focus from resources to results of government activities (Schedler/Summermatter 2009).
From an international perspective, there is an ever increasing interest in performance budgeting as documented by the latest OECD study (2007). The best-known, earlier approaches to performance budgets, like the Planning-Programming-Budgeting system (PPBS) in the 1960s, Management by objectives (MBO) and Zero-based budgeting (ZBB) in the 1970s are said to have failed or were unpractical for the one or the other reason, leading Schick (2007) to his famous saying: “Performance budgeting is easy to explain but has been hard to implement.” In October 2011, IPSASB started the consultation process on its paper on Reporting Service Performance Information. The consultation was concluded in April 2012 and received over 30 comments. It is now planned to issue a Recommended Practice Guideline (RPG) for those public sector entities applying IPSAS.
In Switzerland, performance budgets are generally referred to as “Globalbudgets”. Especially state (canton) and local governments have long experience with such reforms as they were early birds when they first introduced performance budgeting in the 1990s (Bergmann, 2009). At the moment, 11 out of 26 cantons have adopted performance budgets, covering nearly 65% of the financial volume of all cantons (measured in expenses of the current budget). The earliest experiences (Zurich) are dating back to 1995, with the latest canton (Schwyz) having switched to a new model of budgeting in 2011 (Econcept, 2011).
Looking at the state of local financial management, performance budgeting has been implemented within a context of stable public finances. Already in the late 70s of the last century, Swiss cantons and municipalities started adopting a harmonized accounting framework reflecting the characteristics of accrual accounting and budgeting. Debt-brakes and mid-term planning are an issue for all cantons. It seems as if the public households could come out quite unscathed from the recent economic crisis (Doytchinov/Luck, 2012).
Given such favourable circumstances, why bother with a new budgeting approach? What are the expected benefits of performance budgeting, and what is then the performance in delivering them?
To give some answers on these questions, the paper starts with a brief introduction to the Swiss political and macro-economic setting, before lining out the context of Swiss performance budgeting experiences. Next, this article will analyse the available performance budgeting documents, legislation and evaluation reports to examine approaches towards performance reporting of Swiss German speaking cantons. The findings will then be compared to the Consultation Paper of IPSASB and comments as a benchmark to compare Swiss practice with international experience on performance budgeting.