Digital Theses Archive


Tesi etd-09302016-144747

Type of thesis
Performance- based budgeting: Understanding practice variation through the lens of institutional theories
Scientific disciplinary sector
relatore Prof. CINQUINI, LINO
  • Nessuna parola chiave trovata
Exam session start date
This dissertation examines the variation of a relevant and challenging practice adopted in the public sector worldwide, the so-called performance-based budgeting (PBB). This practice represents an example of the integration of accounting and management changes in the public sector. It can play a pivotal role in the public sector and for public sector organizations because it is built on the use of performance information during the budgeting process and, thus, is expected to meet current challenges of improving, for instance, efficiency and effectiveness, and/or strengthening accountability and transparency. On the other hand, PBB has proven to be challenging and problematic worldwide. The PBB practice, inspired by private sector principles, has been transferred from one context to another, consistently with the international role of the reform movement known as New Public Management. However, this process has not been neutral and has thus resulted in the practice variation we observe today. Therefore, the current research is mainly interested in investigating the interpretations and applications of the practice and the variation between and across them in different settings in order to answer the following broad research problems: How can PBB vary across contexts? What can explain PBB variation? And what can this variation teach? <br>Contrary to the isomorphic expectations of homogeneity across public organizations derived from a strand of the institutional theory, the present study supports the idea that the same practice can vary across contexts, and interprets and explains the reasons for the variation. To fulfil this goal, the research has been structured into three parts, each of which represents a crucial step towards the achievement of the final goal by addressing a narrower and more detailed aspect of the broader problem. <br>First, the research systematically reviews the existing literature on PBB and identifies gaps and avenues for future research (Chapter I). In order to contextualize and guide the empirical analysis, the starting point has been identified in the analysis of the existing body of knowledge, which has been growing over the last few decades but is still lacking systematization. Two questions have inspired the review: What has previous research on PBB investigated? What else could be done? The review analyses academic studies published from 1990 to 2014 in the field of public management/administration and accounting and classifies the selected papers (n. 60) through descriptive and conceptual analysis. The analysis has shed light on overlooked and over-investigated areas of research, thus identifying a research agenda.<br>In particular, the findings of the literature review have inspired and guided the consequent empirical analysis (second and third part of the research). Indeed, analysis of the existing knowledge of PBB has pointed out that the reasons for the practice variation across organizations are not still fully explored, while similar challenges faced in adopting, implementing and using PBB have been investigated. Therefore, the second part of the research empirically investigates PBB variation across organizations within a country (Chapter II). In particular, it analyses whether and why PBB can assume different features across three ministries in Italy. The research investigates the interaction between external pressures (regulative, normative and cognitive-cultural) and internal dynamics (value, interest, power dependencies, and technical and managerial competences) in order to explain the institutionalization of PBB at the central level of government. The analysis explains the extent to which the practice has been institutionalized in a context where attempts to introduce managerial reforms have been more recent compared to other countries, such as the Nordic countries. By adopting this approach, the research has contributed to the body of knowledge on PBB by demonstrating that organizations influence how the practice of PBB can be implemented and internalized, thus determining variations even within the same national boundaries, because they react differently to similar external pressures. <br>Finally, the last stage of the research makes a two-fold contribution to the overall work (Chapter III). First, it focuses on the perceptions and reactions of different actors to PBB challenges, thus contributing to this overlooked issue. In order to fulfil this goal, the research investigates PBB at the central level of government in two Nordic countries, Finland and Sweden, purposefully selected because they represent well-developed performance management systems with a long and apparently successful experience with PBB. By adopting this approach, the analysis of PBB contributes to the overall research by providing a different perspective on explaining practice variation. The research demonstrates that PBB is connoted by intrinsic ambiguities that are often not addressed by the actors exposed to the practice because of their internal dynamics, namely, a low level of commitment, lack of satisfaction with PPB, (on the contrary) a good level of satisfaction with the broad performance system, in addition to technical and managerial problems. PBB as a tool has been demonstrated to be often unfeasible in the public sector and for public sector organizations even in contexts where expectations are higher. <br>The empirical analysis in Italy, Finland and Sweden was conducted by adopting the case study method as the research strategy, where the results are based on data gathered mainly through semi-structured interviews and analysis of documents. The data have been integrated and analysed in an interpretative way. This choice stems from the topic and goal of the work, namely, analysing a contemporary practice in its own context and providing a sound explanation for its potential variation. Further, the qualitative approach has been considered the most appropriate choice based on the theoretical approach used, since it seems that it is somewhat difficult to quantitatively measure the internal dynamics of organizations.