PFM Reform

January 16, 2014

Politics Matter…But PFM Reforms Do Too.

Posted by Carlos Scartascini*

Politics
The recent CAPE 2013 conference organized by ODI provided a forum for discussing where PFM is and where it is going. While many interesting issues arose from the discussions, one theme was ever present: namely, the importance of considering PFM as much more than a purely technocratic process. Politics matter, and they tend to determine the way reforms are implemented, and their probability of success. In this note, I highlight the reasons why politics matter for the budget process and how this issue can be dealt with.

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December 02, 2013

Is There a “New Consensus” on PFM Reform?

Posted by Richard Allen

Odi logo
The Overseas Development Institute’s annual CAPE Conference (the eighth in the series) on Budgeting in the Real World took place in London from November 13–14, 2013. The Conference attracted an impressive group of 110 national and international public servants, consultants and academics who work on budget institutions. For many practitioners, CAPE is the definitive PFM event of the year. The keynote speech, which was featured in a recent blog post, was given by Antoinette Sayeh, Director of the IMF’s Africa Department. Other notable presentations were made by Matt Andrews of the Harvard Kennedy School, and Allen Schick of the Brookings Institution and University of Maryland.

The Conference included sessions on the form and functionality of budget systems, what constitutes a capable ministry of finance, how reform can deliver change in the budget process, and how improved budget systems impact on development outcomes. Much of this is familiar ground and there was a sense of déjà vu in some of the presentations. One participant asked rhetorically why there were no feedback loops in our profession, why the same messages kept on being repeated from one year to the next, and why PFM practitioners appeared to learn so little and did not change their attitudes or behavior. Nevertheless, while the agenda had a familiar look on the surface, there were encouraging signs that an important if uncomfortable truth about the nature of budget reform is beginning to sink in to the collective mind of the PFM community. Indeed, the Conference may prove to be a watershed in the development of thinking on PFM reform, though much work remains to be done to flesh out the details of the new approach—an emerging “New PFM Consensus”—and put it into practice.

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November 21, 2013

Budgeting in the Real World - What Do We Know? What Should We Do?

This is the keynote speech given last week, November 13th, by Antoinette Sayeh, Director of the IMF’s African Department at the UK’s Overseas Development Institute’s annual CAPE Conference in London on why PFM matters, why reforms are difficult, and what we know to make them successful…..

Sayeh

I am delighted to have the opportunity to deliver this keynote address and would like to thank Messrs. Ed Hedger, Kevin Watkins, and Philip Krause for inviting me to this important conference and for that generous introduction.

Let me start by saying that from the IMF’s perspective, good governance is important for countries at all stages of development. Transparent government accounts and effective public resource management are preconditions for sustained economic growth and prosperity. Indeed, budget formulation, implementation, and oversight lie at the core of good economic governance. Strong budget institutions are essential for countries to achieve sound fiscal policies and effective expenditure programs. Budgets can only be spent once. Getting the priorities right all the way from formulation to execution, and being efficient at it, is all the more important. Transparency and fairness are most important in ensuring that expenditures are aligned with broadly agreed priorities, and in securing society’s buy-in. While most can agree to the underlying principles, the hard part is to have systems and capacity in place that actually ensure that they are respected all along the process chain. As so often, the devil is in the detail. 

Continue reading "Budgeting in the Real World - What Do We Know? What Should We Do?" »

August 21, 2013

Guinea – A Decade of Public Financial Management Reforms

Posted By Abdoul Wane[1]

In this latest in the series of blog posts by IMF area department country teams, IMF Resident Representative Abdul Wane reviews the mixed progress of PFM reform in Guinea.

Against the backdrop of economic fragility and fiscal challenges, Guinea’s medium-term programs supported by Fund arrangements over the last decade aimed to reduce financial imbalances. The growth objectives were predicated on greater fiscal discipline and an improved quality of public spending. Fiscal consolidation was to be supported by tax policy and tax administration reforms and a gradual shift in budget allocations toward priority spending, including investment. To address these challenges structural measures in Fund programs – as well as program conditionality - focused largely on PFM reforms (Figure 1 below). The 2001 PRGF request included three structural performance criteria (PC) of which two were on PFM reforms. Likewise, the 2007 PRGF request included six PCs on PFM out of a total of nine PCs.

However, since Guinea never implemented fully a program supported by the IMF, several measures had to be reprogrammed in successor programs. The sluggish implementation of reforms partly reflects Guinea’s political and institutional fragility. Vested interests stalled the reform agendas, in the absence of checks and balances. Important structural measures could not be implemented fully or were reversed because of insufficient political support, and control systems were bypassed under the watch of the political leadership. As a result, overall performance in PFM reforms has been feeble as periods of regression followed episodes of progress.

Continue reading "Guinea – A Decade of Public Financial Management Reforms" »

July 08, 2013

Keeping Reform in the DRC on Track

Posted by Oscar Melhado Orellana

In this third article on the blog in which IMF area department staff express their views on PFM reforms in “their” country, Fiscal Affairs Department technical assistance advisor, Jean Pierre Nguenang, speaks with IMF Resident Representative for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Oscar Melhado Orellana, about the importance of PFM technical assistance in keeping the IMF program on track.

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What contribution are reforms of PFM, revenue administration and tax policy expected to make to improved economic and fiscal performance in the DRC?

The DRC is one of the poorest countries in the world in terms of nominal GDP, despite being considered one of the richest countries in terms of natural resources. It has more than 30 percent of the world’s diamond reserves and 70 percent of the world’s coltan. The DRC is also one of the lowest-ranked countries in the international Corruption Perception Index. The government is still struggling to bring order to the eastern part of the country where recurrent attacks on citizens are perpetrated by armed groups opposed to the regime.

Continue reading "Keeping Reform in the DRC on Track" »

July 03, 2013

A New PFM Reform Strategy for Cyprus

Posted by George Panteli[1]

The government of Cyprus recently launched a radical reform plan for modernizing the country’s public financial management (PFM) system. The reforms are crucial to the implementation of the economic and financial recovery program on which we are now engaged with the help of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It will enable Cyprus to bring its budget process into line with best practice in the EU region, and enforce the fiscal rules and financial discipline that are necessary to comply with our Treaty obligations. At the same time, it will create an opportunity for line ministries to enjoy a new-found flexibility in managing their staff and other resources and to focus efforts on improving the quality of education, health and other public services that in many cases lag behind out counterparts in Europe. The strategy encompasses both traditional aspects of the budget system and emerging topics such as project evaluation processes, the management of fiscal risks including public-private partnerships (PPPs) and the future development of a sovereign wealth fund.  

The reform plan is challenging and a realistic timeline is required since the plan will take several years to implement. What are the plan’s main components?  

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June 24, 2013

Successful International PFM Workshop for IFMIS Coordinators at IDB

Posted by Carlos Pimenta[1]

This event, which took place in Washington, DC from May 15-17, discussed the PFM challenges faced in modernizing Integrated Financial Management Information Systems (IFMIS), as they relate to technology, public accounting, treasury and budget. The workshop was attended by about 120 participants, including IFMIS coordinators from 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, private consulting firms, international experts and staff from IDB, IMF and World Bank.

The agenda of the event included topics such as: (1) How to measure progress in efficiency and quality of PFM reforms and systems? (2) The role of IFMIS in cost systems and result-based management, (3) Technological advances in IFMIS development, (4) Budget transparency and accountability, (5) Definitions, techniques and regulatory framework for interoperability and its impact on IFMIS context, (6) Change management and IFMIS implementation, and (7) Service management, maintenance and support for IFMIS.

All presentations, speakers and other information can be reached using the links in the Final Report attached below (in English and Spanish) or here

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June 19, 2013

Post-Crisis PFM Reforms in Mali

Posted by Christian Josz[1]

This is the second article on the blog in a series about the views of IMF area department staff on PFM reforms in “their” country. In this article Fiscal Affairs Department technical assistance advisor, Benoit Taiclet, speaks with  IMF mission chief for Mali, Christian Josz, about the importance of PFM technical assistance in keeping the IMF program on track. 

Josz and Taiclet
What are the challenges of working in Mali at the present time?  How resilient has the country been in the face of the recent political and economic crisis?

Mali ranks among the poorest countries in the world, and has been under a succession of IMF programs for more than two decades. External funding has always played a significant role in the country’s development with grants reaching more than three percent of GDP. More recently, in 2011 the economy traversed a very difficult period when the country was hit by a drought and terrorist attacks. Following the 2012 military coup, fueled by military defeats, persistent corruption and failing institutions, donors suspended or dramatically reduced their support.  By the end of 2012, despite the fiscal austerity measures taken by the government, including the cutting of almost all capital spending, substantial arrears had accumulated, and the country’s debt rose markedly.

Faced with such concerns, the Fund seized the opportunity of last year’s slight recovery to re-settle in the country, with the reinstatement of our Resident Representative’s office in late 2012. We stepped up our involvement in early 2013 when the military situation was resolved with the fielding of an international coalition against rebel separatists and terrorists.

In the first quarter of 2013, the recommitment of IMF support through a rapid credit facility helped trigger the return of a number of donors whose pledges for funding reached US$ 4 billion in May. Now we hope the economy will rebound, as the authorities move to overcome the challenges ahead, and the production of gold and agricultural products increases. But political and security risks still cast a cloud over the nascent recovery.

Continue reading "Post-Crisis PFM Reforms in Mali" »

June 14, 2013

Time to Overhaul PFM in the UK?

Posted by Tom Josephs

Should the public sector aim to follow the approach to financial control used in the private sector?  In 2011 the UK government took a step in this direction by publishing the first Whole of Government Accounts (WGA) which consolidate the financial accounts of over 1,500 organizations across the public sector on a similar basis to commercial accounting.  Two recent papers[1] suggest that the UK government should build on this initiative—following the introduction of accrual-based accounting and budgeting ten years earlier—by developing better financial control structures which mirror those used in the private sector. The ideas put forward provide a useful contribution to this debate.

WGA is based on the system of accounts used internationally by the private sector, adapted where appropriate for the public sector, and uses a similar presentation to private sector accounts. It is the first time a consolidated set of accounts has been published for the UK public sector. Because it follows commercial accounting practices it should open up the public sector finances to wider external scrutiny by accounting professionals. While WGA’s contribution to increased transparency has been widely recognized it has yet to find a role in policy-making.  Partly this reflects the fact that it is a relatively new innovation. It is unfamiliar to policy-makers and there is no historical series and few international comparators against which to benchmark the current position.  There are significant differences between the key measures of the public sector deficit and net liability position found in WGA compared to the equivalent National Accounts measures produced by the UK’s national statistical agency which are currently used in fiscal policy-making.

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June 07, 2013

Treasury Community of Practice Debates Internal Control Issues in Kiev

Posted by Mark Silins

The Treasury Community of Practice (TCOP) of PEMPAL[1] conducted a highly participative three-day workshop entitled “Internal Control and the Role of a Modern Treasury” from April 24–26, 2013.  Over 60 officials, including treasury managers and specialists from 18 TCOP-member countries, as well as representatives of the Ministries of Finance of the Netherlands and Ireland, took part in the workshop held in Kiev, Ukraine. The workshop was also supported by experts from the World Bank, OECD, and the Slovenian Centre of Excellence in Finance.

The general objective of the Kiev event was to provide an opportunity for TCOP members to exchange experiences and take stock of the steps taken to date in implementing internal controls in each country and what, if any, steps remained. The workshop discussed both the role of a treasury in terms of managing internal controls within its own operations along with the broader role of the treasury as a key player within the overall public internal control framework in government. Prior to the workshop, participant countries responded to a 40-question survey to ascertain the status of their internal controls in relation to both of these two roles. Responses to the surveys proved extremely useful in designing an agenda relevant to participating countries.

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June 03, 2013

Kenya’s Bold Course in PFM Reform

Posted by Ragnar Gudmundsson[1]

Note: This is the first in a new series of articles on the blog about PFM reforms in selected countries. Each article will be written by the IMF’s mission chief or resident representative in the country concerned, thus casting a fresh light on the reforms and their relationship to the Fund’s surveillance work.

Gudmundsson
Kenya is going through a huge set of political reforms, including a new Constitution.  What issues in public finance and PFM has this created? 

Kenya’s ambitious new Constitution was promulgated in August 2010, and one of its eighteen chapters is devoted to Public Finance. Key provisions in this chapter relate to devolution and the process of fiscal decentralization to the 47 newly created counties. Devolution was considered by the drafters of the Constitution as a way to promote political stability by ensuring adequate representation and the participation of all Kenyans in the running of the country. In this context, fiscal decentralization was perceived as a mechanism to enhance the delivery of social services on the ground and to promote enhanced accountability from State Officers. Moreover, a central objective of the Constitution is to promote good governance in PFM through the establishment of a sound institutional and regulatory environment at both national and county level.

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May 28, 2013

PFM Law Reforms: Balancing Legislative and Executive Powers

Posted by Kubai Khasiani and Florence Kuteesa

A growing number of Parliaments in Commonwealth African countries are casting off their Westminster inheritance and demanding a greater role of parliaments in budget decision-making. The last decade has seen restive backbenchers in some of  these countries bring forward Private Member’s Bills which look to enhancing the legislature’s powers over the public purse at the expense of the executive. This approach has sometimes been fiercely contested or not fully supported, and the product of this struggle between the branches of government leaves many unresolved issues and, in some cases, an outcome that is fiscally challenging to the country.

For almost half a century after achieving their independence, former British colonies in Africa implemented a budget preparation system that enshrined a weak legislature and a strong executive in the decision-making process. Ian Lienert examined the British influence on budget systems in Tanzania, as an example, and noted that the  parliament was engaged only very late in the budget preparation process, had limited powers to alter the government budget after it was presented, and was often not consulted about changes made by the government during the budget execution phase. As a result, parliaments seldom had a significant impact on the size or distribution of government revenue or expenditure.

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May 15, 2013

FMIS Choice: the Dangers of In-House Development in Low-Capacity Countries

Posted by Lewis Murara and Christopher Iles[i]

A major decision faced by many countries is what sort of Financial Management Information System (FMIS) they should develop to support their PFM reform efforts. The decision is more difficult in low-capacity countries where implementing an FMIS can have a disproportionate impact on management, operations, and operating costs.

There are three general FMIS options that governments can consider:

  • Bespoke, i.e. own developed software solutions
  • Customized “enterprise resource planning” (ERP) systems
  • Non-customized COTS systems

In making the decision, recent studies[1] have demonstrated that there is no single best solution. Over a decade or so, the tendency in many Latin American countries has been for in-house development of their FMIS, while Africa has preferred commercial off-the-shelf solutions (COTS) and developed countries have tended to favor customized ERPs.

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May 10, 2013

Latest Issue of International Journal of Governmental Financial Management Published

Posted by Andy Wynne

ICGFM1
The latest issue of the International Journal of Governmental Financial Management was recently published and is now available for free download

We begin this issue of our Journal with an examination of key public financial management (PFM) reform measures undertaken in India in the recent past and suggestions to enhance the effectiveness of the PFM systems involved involved. In recent years the role of sound PFM systems in achieving the objectives of fiscal discipline, strategic planning and improved service delivery has been receiving increased public attention in India. PFM reforms undertaken intermittently over the years have, however, not delivered the anticipated results in these areas. Studies and recommendations of government appointed committees and expert bodies have identified gaps that need attention to strengthen the institutional framework and to improve the efficiency of government spending.

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April 08, 2013

Reforming PFM in Developing Countries

Posted by Richard Allen[i]

I recently had the pleasure of discussing PFM reform issues with senior officials of the Ministry of Finance in Jamaica and, a few days later, at a workshop in Trinidad for the member countries of the IMF’s Caribbean Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC) which was attended by several Finance Secretaries from the region. In Jamaica, reform of the public sector is high on the government’s agenda as a result of the negative impact of the global financial crisis, high levels of indebtedness and a weak economy. Finance officials in other parts of the region are trying to reconcile the need to make important structural reforms with the day-to-day pressures of managing the budget and dealing with myriad other financial contingencies. 

What are the main messages that came out of these various interesting conversations?

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April 03, 2013

Make Way for the Hybrids

Posted by Matt Andrews. This article was originally published by Foreign Policy on April 2, 2013.

Development experts are often quick to focus on the role of institutions. They are, simply put, the "rules of the game" derived over time that drive politics, economics, and other social interactions. Social scientists like Douglass North, Daron Acemoglu, and Jim Robinson have shown that these rules strongly influence how countries grow and develop. Over decades, theorists and development practitioners have compiled what one might consider a script of the "right" rules and institutions needed to foster economic growth and open societies with good governments that advance the needs of their citizens. But despite all the good intentions, this western-created game plan hasn't quite worked out as expected. 

Organizations like the World Bank have supported institutional reforms in developing countries for more than two decades now, often making it the backbone of their development agendas. Such work accounts for billions of dollars of development spending each year, devoted to creating democratic electoral processes, robust public financial management systems, effective anticorruption regimes, and other new rules of the game in countries ranging from Afghanistan to Uganda. 

At first glance, many of these reforms seem to have yielded success. In Afghanistan, for example, new laws adopted after 2003 have modernized the government's budgeting and financial management system. The system's quality was ranked "higher than a middle-income country" in a 2008 assessment using the multi-donor Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) framework, which compares countries' governance systems with what is considered "international good practice." Similarly, Uganda's anticorruption reforms have produced new laws that donors tout as world-class. The think-tank Global Integrity rated these laws as best in the world in 2008, giving them a perfect 100 score. Canada scored 90; Italy got 82. 

Continue reading "Make Way for the Hybrids" »

March 15, 2013

CARTAC Discusses PFM Reform Strategies and State Enterprises

Posted by Eileen Brown and Matthew Smith

Cartac
Senior finance officials from several CARTAC countries participated in a lively CARTAC workshop in Trinidad from February 25-27 with international experts Richard Allen and David Shand. The workshop discussed how to best structure finance ministries to meet demands to sustain economic growth; how to design their PFM reform strategies and get the most from technical assistance; and how to manage the fiscal risks of state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The countries represented were Antigua, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Haiti, Jamaica, Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and Suriname. There were 22 participants as well as the two presenters and two facilitators.

“This workshop really worked for me,” said Devon Rowe, Jamaica’s Financial Secretary (FS) “because it verified some options I was considering and it opened me up to new ideas based on what worked for my Caribbean colleagues.  Mostly it persuaded me that we all benefit when we share experiences. There are mistakes that we will not have to repeat because Dominica, St. Lucia, Antigua and BVI have shared their missteps as well as their successes with us.”

“Dominica always learns something and I am gratified we were able to share so much of what we learned with others” said FS Rosamund Edwards.

“I could write a book of do’s and do not’s in reform,” said Deputy FS John Edwards.  “I like the structure of this workshop – experts tell us about new thinking and world experience, and then respond constructively when we tell them what obtains in the region.”  Antigua and Barbuda had enjoyed a wealth of technical assistance funding and worked hard to properly sequence it.

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February 01, 2013

PEFA Newsflash: Taking the Magnifying Glass to the PEFA Assessment Report Preparation Documents

Posted by the PEFA Secretariat

The PEFA Secretariat recently finalized the Monitoring Report 2012 (MR-12), the fifth report of this nature to be produced by the Secretariat. The report was designed to assess (a) the extent to which the PEFA assessment report preparation documents, referred to as Concept Notes or Terms of References (CN/TORs) reach the Secretariat for review (b) the quality of the CN/TORs at the draft stage when the Secretariat provides their peer-review, (c) the extent to which the PEFA Secretariat comments are integrated into the final CN/TORs, and (d) examine possible correlations between the quality of a PEFA assessment report and their respective CN/TOR; however, this last question had to be dropped due to the multitude of variables that exist in producing a quality assessment report.

The report considers the 129 reviews conducted of CN/TORs between September 2005 and June 2012, of which a sample of 39 are used for an in-depth analysis of their quality and the extent to which the PEFA Secretariat comments are considered. The sample contains those CN/TORs for which the Secretariat was able to obtain the final version, having already reviewed the draft.

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January 30, 2013

Good Practice Note on Sequencing PFM Reforms – Taking on Board Comments Received

Posted by Jack Diamond

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Following the posting of a  draft Guidance Note on Sequencing PFM Reforms on the PEFA website  and on this blog (along with two Background Papers by Messrs. Tommasi and Diamond), the PEFA Steering Committee met on 15 November, 2012 to review the response to a number of comments received. Comments came both from development partners (such as SECO, DFID, the Inter-American Development Bank), as well as PFM experts in the field. Most of the comments dealt with specific issues, and were generally aimed at ensuring greater clarity in the text. Accordingly, the majority of these comments were easily accommodated in revised drafts of the Guidance Note and Background Papers, 1 and 2. There were, however, a number of general issues raised that were more thoroughly discussed by the Steering Committee, which are summarized in this blog.

Continue reading "Good Practice Note on Sequencing PFM Reforms – Taking on Board Comments Received" »

January 29, 2013

PEFA Newsflash: Good Practice Note on Sequencing Reform

Posted by the PEFA Secretariat

Pefa banner
Following publication of the draft “Guidance Note on Sequencing PFM Reforms”together with two Background Papers in September 2012, several comments were received and reviewed by the authors and these have been incorporated into the final version of these papers, published as a 'Good Practice Note'. The work was undertaken following an extensive period of research and debate around the issues between the PEFA Partners, led by IMF and the European Commission. The documents were authored by Jack Diamond (former Division Chief in the IMF's Fiscal Affairs Department), and Daniel Tommasi, and can be found by clicking the links at the bottom of the page.

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