Posted by Maarten de Jong[i]
An unknown person once noted that a cynical person is an idealist who, at some point, made the mistake of turning his ideals into his expectations. Looking at the increasing amount of critical studies on the impact of performance-based and program budgeting reforms, one could become a bit cynical towards this popular and ambitious type of budget reform. Not unlike the experience in other countries, the implementation of performance-based and program budgeting in the Netherlands over a decade ago has only partly lived up to its expectations.
There has not been much evidence that major reallocation of spending has taken place as a result of these reforms. In addition, the informational value of budgets and the administrative burden for line ministries have been continuous sources of debate. Nevertheless, the concept of linking funding to results has proven its usefulness in agency management and does help the Ministry of Finance differentiate between a powerful claim and a powerful claimant in the budget process. Neither is anyone inclined to give up the benefits of increased transparency and enhanced managerial flexibility that resulted from introducing a program budget. Instead of becoming cynical or glorifying the "good old days" of input budgeting, the Netherlands Ministry of Finance accepted the fact that it may have had some unrealistic expectations and that some of the criticism on performance budgeting as implemented actually made sense and demanded a solution. This resulted in a major overhaul of the budget presentation and program structure in recent years called “Verantwoord Begroten” (translated as Accountable Budgeting).