Traditional budgeting system Essay

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Traditional budgeting system

Wildavsky (1978, p. 502) mentions that “traditional budgeting is annual (repeated yearly) and incremental (departing marginally from the year before)”. It is conducted on a cash basis in current dollar. It is also in the form of line-items such as personnel or maintenance. This system is essentially a financial plan of estimated expenditures expressed in terms of kinds and quantities of objects to be bought and the estimated funds needed to finance them during a specified period, usually one year (Babunakis, 1976).

The traditional budgeting system, therefore, provides a means for national governments to promote accountability with regard to the utilization of funds and to ensure every expenditure matches the original plans. It serves as the basis for establishing the financial accounting procedures and controls required to meet defined accountability and compliance requirements (Kenneth S. 1978). In modern times, traditional budgeting has also become an instrument of economic management and of planning (Wildavsky, 1978).

Furthermore, one of the main characteristics of this type of budget is that its stability of allocation, not only in absolute allocation but also in proportional terms, the marginal increments due to inflation or other consequences, is relatively constant from year to year. The main features and purpose of this approach are central financial control and accountability. At present, most developing countries use traditional budgets system that are based upon ‘classical rules’ which adhere to the principles of centralization, vote accounting, the gross budget principle, annuality and specification (Jones & Pendlebury, 1996, p.

5). However, there are considerable criticisms of traditional budgets. One of the fundamental weaknesses of the budgetary process is the use of the revised current year estimates of revenue and expenditure as the starting point for determining the budget for the next year (Jones & Pendlebury, 1996). The traditional budget is concerned with inputs rather than outputs. This means that traditional budgets do not provide a means of making policy and resource choices, and monitoring performance.

As the traditional budget has failed to relate purpose to cost, it was thought to be ineffective as a tool for making economic decisions. The second weakness of traditional budgeting is that there is an insufficient relationship between the annual budget and longer-term development plans. This is because incremental budgeting stresses short-term objectives and neglects the long-term nature of government planning and objectives. Thus, it can’t solve the problem facing developing countries, in particular it can’t allocate limited resources among competing needs, and to realize the formulated plans.

The third weakness is that centralization of budget preparation and rigid departmental divisions makes it difficult to achieve overall national objectives, to deal with conflicts and overlaps and gaps between departments. Single-year budgeting and the incremental approach often result in wasteful spending of money at the end of the fiscal year, thus economy suffers. In addition, an incremental approach means that the bulk of expenditure is never properly examined. Performance is measured by whether funds have been spent and not whether objectives have been achieved.

Finally, the separate budget process for recurrent and capital or routine and development expenditures may be arbitrary, impeding proper evaluation of services, their needs and their costs as a whole. In many developing countries, capital expenditure may be seen often erroneously, to be of greater developmental value than recurrent expenditure e. g. new buildings versus paying teachers or maintaining roads. However, the traditional budgeting system has benefits. It is simple, easy to control and it reduces conflicts. According to Aronson (1981, p.

99) it ensures that the legality, public trust, probity, financial responsibility and solvency of local governments is maintained at all times by utilizing the budgeting principles of comprehensiveness, unity, accuracy, clarity, and publicity. Jones & Pendlebury (1996) mention that ‘the most important reason for using incremental budgeting is that many of the activities carried out in previous years are either mandatory, or are so fundamental to meeting organization goals, that they will have to continue year in year out’.

They argued that “it seems sensible, therefore, to concentrate only on the changes from the previous year, because these might be all that are controllable. Wildavsky (1984, p. 13) states that: “The budget may be conceived of as an iceberg with by far the largest part below the surface, outside the control of anyone. Many items in the budget are standard and are implied re-enacted every year unless there is a special reason to challenge them. ” The second reason for using incremental budgeting is that it concerns the

complexity of the budgetary process (Jones & Pendlebury, 1996). They argued that “the limits on decision makers’ knowledge, information, and cognitive ability mean that aids to calculation such as incremental budgetary are necessary”. By concentrating only on new programs, or changes in existing programs, the information that has to be gathered and analyzed can be limited to that which humans can process and evaluate. Another reason for using incremental budgeting is that it narrows the area open to disputes, thereby reducing conflicts (Jones & Pendlebury, 1996).

They argued that “by focusing on incremental changes, arguments over budgetary allocations are confined to relatively small amounts. The vast proportion of the annual budget allocation is undisputed”. b. Planning Programming Budgeting System (PPBS) This system was developed in the private sector, then transferred to public and non-profit organizations in the early 1960s. It was adopted by the US Department of Defense, and extended to all Departments of the Federal Government by President Johnson in 1965. It was implemented, or at least experimented, with in many state and local governments, both in the USA and the UK.

The new budgeting system is capable of making a major contribution to achieve efficiency in the allocation of resources. Thus, it will increase the benefits derived from the government’s many activities. In addition, it is a comprehensive financial planning and management system in which alternative ways of providing public services were evaluated and decisions made using sophisticated analytic techniques (Caldwell, K, 1978, p. 12). He argues that PPBS provided the opportunity to introduce program budgeting and cost accounting into the planning and budgeting process.

However, in relation to the budget at least, no one really identified and focused on the related program accounting requirements. The primary purpose of PPBS is to ensure that “the limited resources are allocated in such a way that they will produce the greatest beneficial impact on the overall objectives” (Jones and Pendlebury, 1996, p. 70). PPBS is a model aimed at helping management make better decisions on the allocation of resources among alternative ways to attain government objectives (Aurora, 1982).

In considering PPBS it is necessary to distinguish between program structure and program analysis that might be undertaken to achieve these objectives (Jones & Pendlebury, 1996). The program structure provides the framework for linking resources and activities to objectives. In this case, PPBS involves cutting across the normal organizational structure so that the appropriate inputs can be drawn together. Meanwhile, program analysis is concerned with the analysis of the costs and benefits of each program so that choices can be made (Jones & Pendlebury, 1996).

Colville (1989) has stated that PPBS could require a well-developed cost-benefit analysis or cost-effectiveness appraisal system to take account of expected/planned changes in activities. The consequence of this concept is that the output of each program must be measured in a manner that captures the entire beneficial impacts of the program. From the above discussion, it can be concluded that the main concept of this technique is that it is primarily concerned with the need to focus on programs of activities rather than departments in planning and budgeting.

This means that it was focusing on outputs rather than inputs, and outputs must be measured. As Hofstede (1981, p. 205) states that PPBS represents the idea of ‘product management’ that assumes that the outputs are measurable. Nevertheless, in measuring the outputs in public sector and non-profit organizations there are serious practical difficulties to be overcome. This is because, it is difficult to define the objective and to measure it. For example in service-oriented organizations such as education, health and environmental benefits.

Moreover, Jones and Pendlebury (1996, p. 77), argue that “they even if definable, are rarely measurable, and the effectiveness of particular activities in meeting needs can only be judged in very subjective terms”. The other criticism is that the objectives are ambivalent. Hofstede, as cited by Jones and Pendlebury (1996, p. 77) argues that “attempts to implement a system of PPBS under such circumstances would represent a fundamental error in the choice of Management Control Models”.

He points out that the appropriate control model where objectives are ambiguous and outputs non-measurable is ‘political’ control. Politicians, generally, prefer to state goals as vague as possible. Premchand (1983, p. 328) states that “goals are in the nature of political ends and cannot be considered in terms of technical means”. Therefore, clearly the objectives considered by the techniques of PPBS are not ultimate ones purpose. In this case, Jones and Pendlebury (1993, p. 75) state: “Even the correct determination of costs is not as straightforward it may at first seem.

Many activities are multi-purpose nature and it is not always obvious how the costs of such activities should be allocated to particular ‘output categories. ” For example the libraries service of local authority may exist to fulfill both the educational needs and the recreational needs of community. An allocation of costs between these two aspects would often be extremely difficult to make. They point out that for many public sector organizations PPBS might, therefore, be thought of as just one more example of a technique that is consequently sound.

This is because of practical limitations, and improbability of satisfactory implementation. Furthermore, Wildavsky, as cited by Jones and Pendlebury (1996, p. 77), F. Jablonsky and W. Dirsmith (1978, p. 215) state that “PPBS has failed every where and at all times. Nowhere has PPBS has been established and influenced governmental decisions according to its own principles”. Jones and Pendlebury (1996, p. 78) argue that “PPBS has failed not because of the absence of sufficient data, or measurement techniques, or lack of adequate training, but because of a more fundamental deficiency”.

Caldwell (1978) argues that the introduction of PPBS has not been successfully everywhere, because of largely misunderstood concepts in an environment which has traditionally been resistant to change and with little consideration of the practical realities involved. As a result, PPBS became a theoretically sound, but operationally impractical way to plan, budget, account for and manage a government’s finances. Jones and Pendlebury (1996), argue that PPBS might not work because orthodox planning approaches and cybernetic management control models are not always appropriate for public sector activities.

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