CHAPTER 2 MANAGERIAL REFORMS AND THE EMERGENT NEED OF ACCOUNTABILITY
2.2.3 The Transition Towards a Result Based Management and Reporting Model
− Focus on specific tools rather than on the RBM process at large, in particular on the budgeting side. The abandonment of an input budget and the adoption of the programme and results-based budgeting has been chronologically speaking the first meaningful step towards the RBM model; RBB is supposed to provide a more meaningful allocation of resources and responsabilization of management on significant programme items and allows the organization to link monetary resources to quantifiable objectives;
− Need to further develop the performance measurement system both in the designing phase –ability to tailor target measures in relation to the adopted logical frameworks and to adopt a relevant and non-redundant set of measures both at the field/operational level and at the corporate level- and in the implementation phase – capacity to monitor and report on the results on a regular base with a sustainable workload-. For this reason, the introduction of the results-based reporting (RBR) happened more recently and the majority of the UN organizations began to produce these documents between 2000 and 2002;
− On the management information systems pesrpective, significant improvements are expected from the adoption of the accrual accounting systems and the ERP systems, in order to add meaningful information on cost of activities and services (efficiency perspective) and to make easier the monitoring phase;
− Lack of precise organizational collocation for units in charge of managing and feeding the information system behind the RBM tools and consequent lack of proper internal recognition for the RBM function, coupled with the progressive but still limited buy-in of the system by the line managers;
− Embryonic design of the links between RBM and the system of incentives and in particular lack of meaningful link between performance measures in RBM, employees performance evaluation systems and consequent monetary compensation policies.
Focusing the attention on the main tool of the RBM model, the result-based reporting represents a shift in the model of accountability used by the UN organizations which can be analysed both under an “internal” and an “external” perspective.
Under the “internal” perspective, a shift is envisaged from a “traditional” to a “performance-based” model of accountability, involving the evolution from bureaucratic to managerial controls. In other words, the responsibility for compliance -involving enforcement of rules,
formal legitimacy and inspective control- has to be replaced with a professional and anticipatory accountability, related to pro-active initiatives, capacity to pursue organisation outcomes and to act within an adaptive context, where the control function is shaped as a guide, rather than an inspection (Joint Inspection Unit, 1993; Abraszewski and others, 1995).
In the new model, accountability essentially means responsibility to someone for ones’
actions taken and results obtained: this refers to the responsibility of international civil servants to executive heads and to governing bodies and the latter’s responsibility in turn to member States and citizens. Obviously, the new model of accountability needs mechanisms to enforce the principle of responsibility, such as delegation of authority, flexibility of procedures and organisation processes, information systems supporting decision-making and management control, renewed competencies and attitudes by internal oversight services, effective programming and feed-back mechanisms, explicit mechanisms for evaluating resources and objectives. In this sense, organizations have adopted differentiated approaches and tools (Joint Inspection Unit, 1999).
Under the “external” perspective, the reform aims at addressing the issue of weak connections among planning, programming, monitoring and evaluating phases, which affect the traditional external accountability of UN organisations. The reform requires organizations to design and implement a clear “accountability cycle”, where: i) member States in representative bodies focus primarily on setting measurable and time-bound goals, objectives and targets for the organization; ii) executive bodies ensure that the established goals and objectives are translated into effective programmes and activities and that resources are used efficiently for those purposes; iii) oversight bodies, both internal and external, satisfy member States’ information needs, while observing their respective mandates; iv) technical structures give a comprehensive reporting on discretionary resource allocation, financial performance and goals reached, coherently with the strategic framewok built up, activating feed-back mechanisms from the executive and representative bodies.
Consequently, UN organizations have in the last few years reviewed the entire programming and reporting cycle, with the following trends:
− Development of strategic frameworks embedded in medium-long term strategic plans (3 to 7 years), in which organizations fix the expected outcomes in relation to the Millennium Development Goals, common targets for the UN system;
− Evolution from an input-based budget to a result-oriented budget, which requests a radical change of the structure of financial statements (the appropriations are expressed by programmes and objectives rather than by the nature of economic factors) and a set of non-financial objectives operationalising the expected results of the organisation;
− Development of a comprehensive reporting disclosing financial and non-financial performances.
So far, the result based reporting may be considered the best example of the “anticipatory”
accountability model envisaged by the managerial reform of the UN system. Professionals and constituencies demonstrated to appreciate this new tool; in the recent years specific guidelines have been developed for result based budgeting and reporting (RBB, RBR) in UN system14 in relation to the specificity of the organizational goals, the measurability of the results and the capacity to adapt the consolidated organizational culture. The donors’
community as well recently developed interest towards these practices and started to link their funding to the level of transparency and accountability, often considered as one of the proxies of the agency’s effectiveness15.
For the mentioned reasons, we adopt the RBR as objective of our empirical study on factors inpacting on performance accountability of UN system organizations, which will be developed in the rest of the present work.
14 For further reference see for example CEB (2005).
15 For example, the British Department for Foreign Interests (DFIF) developed a specific methodology to rate the development agencies’ effectiveness including the meaningfulness f the RBR as one of the main determinants: cfr. Scott A. (2005).