Reflections on the Austrian COVID-19 budgetary emergency measures and their potential to reconfigure the public financial management system

Johann Seiwald, Tobias Polzer

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Purpose–Crises constitute stress tests for public sectors, with public financial management (PFM) systemshaving to respond to emergency needs. In this study, the authors analyze (1) what elements of the AustrianPFM system have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and (2) what mechanisms have been applied toclose identified gaps in the PFM system and to ensure alignment with budget principles. The authors then reflect on these PFM measures. Design/methodology/approach–The research departs from the pre-crisis configuration of the AustrianPFM system. Making use of a data triangulation strategy, the paper analyses draft laws and regulations withcorresponding explanatory notes and impact assessments, transcripts from debates in the federal Parliamentand articles and commentaries issued by various stakeholders. Findings–The analysis of five areas relevant to the reconfiguration of the Austrian PFM system shows that the pandemic has caused an external shock, but at the same time, the current system has not been challenged insubstance and has been utilized to react to the pandemic—resulting in (ad hoc) modifications. The system hasproved robust and crisis responsive; however, in a reactive pattern, emerging ad hoc elements have beenintegrated, with a number of defensive mechanisms ensuring compliance with budget principles. In addition, insome areas, more proactive actions have been taken for closing system gaps (e.g. risk disclosure).Originality/value–The authors evaluate the likelihood of (proposed, decided and implemented) emergingelements or revisions to a PFM system being embedded into the existing PFM system, alongside reflecting onresults and necessary further adjustments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)855 - 864
JournalJournal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 502052 Business administration
  • 502006 Controlling

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