Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Performance budgeting reform in Cambodia and its value in the context of public higher education institutions

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posted on 2022-12-20, 01:11 authored by Udam Prang

Since the 2000s, the Royal Government of Cambodia has embarked on a wide range of reform programmes to develop the country. One of these reform programmes is the Public Financial Management Reform Programme launched in 2004 whose purpose is to improve performance accountability. Performance budgeting reform is deemed essential for achieving this purpose. To date, the reform is ongoing. However, to pave the way for developing a performance budgeting system in Cambodia, the government, supported by different foreign development partners, introduced a programme budgeting pilot scheme in 2007. By 2018, although programme budgeting had been piloted and implemented by ministries for approximately ten years, it was apparent that the link between budgets and government policies was still weak. Motivated by this problem, the study has two research objectives. The first one is to examine the reality of performance budgeting reform in Cambodia, and the second one is to examine the value of the reform at the organisational level.

To achieve the first research objective, the study addressed two research questions: (a) what are the forces driving performance budget reform and how do they drive the reform? and (b) what are the values held by the actors in the implementation process of performance budgeting reform and how do they interact? To achieve the second research objective, the study chose public higher education institutions as the cases to be examined and addressed the following research question: how is performance budgeting reform valued by public higher education institutions? In Cambodia, public higher education institutions are under the supervision of government ministries. The main reason for selecting this type of organisation for the study is due to the long-standing problems relating to the governance and administration system, the learning environment, and the quality of teaching and research within the public higher education sector.

The study was designed as an interpretivist study. To examine the three research questions, two theories were used as the theoretical framework: (a) the process model of public management reform by Pollitt and Bouckaert (2017) and (b) the framework of orders of worth by Boltanski and Thévenot (2006). The first theory by Pollitt and Bouckaert (2017) was used to examine the first research question related to the driving forces behind the reform. The second theory by Boltanski and Thévenot (2006) was used to examine the second research question on the interaction between actors in the implementation process of the reform and the third research question on the value of the reform in the context of public higher education institutions.

Based on the research objectives and questions, the study was designed as a two-phase qualitative study. The first phase of the study adopted a qualitative research method focused on documentary and interview evidence to address the first and the second research questions. The second phase of the study adopted a multiple case study research method to address the third research question. Qualitative data for the cases were from both documents and interviews. Documents were collected from the official websites of government organisations and foreign development partners. Interviews were conducted with civil servants who are involved in the reform process, relevant project officers from the offices of foreign development partners in Cambodia, and staff from public higher education institutions.

Using the lens of the model of public management reform, the study identified that political forces and socio-economic forces contribute to the initiation and continuation of the reform in Cambodia. However, administrative forces delay the completion of the financial management reform project, and the root of this delay appears to lie with the actors involved in the reform process. The findings suggest that there is a need to foster cooperation and collaboration among all stakeholders, particularly those who are adversely affected by the reform or have the most to lose. Through the lens of the order-of-worth theory, the study further found that the civic and industrial orders are the underlying orders of worth in the reform process. However, because of the occurrence of critical or unfair moments in the reform process, value systems associated with the civic and industrial orders are not always advocated by actors in the reform process. Nonetheless, the findings suggest that these unfair moments can be regarded as challenges that shape the direction of the reform rather than hinder the progress of the budgeting reform.

In terms of the value of the budgeting reform, the study found that the participating HEIs perceive any reform programmes introduced by their supervisory ministries as a legal requirement, and they follow the requirements of the reform to gain trust from their supervisory ministries. Therefore, they regard the reform as a civic and domestic object that can establish their civic and domestic worth, respectively. However, they believe that market-based wealth is more important for institutional survival. Hence, they can be regarded as market subjects. As they receive limited funding from the state and can survive on their self-generated revenue, some of the participating institutions place little value on the reform. In other words, the reform has no impact on their market worth. Also, it is found that the reform has limited influence on the internal management of the participating institutions. Although the reform promotes decentralised value and the participating HEIs recognise this value, some HEIs choose to adopt a centralised approach to manage their business processes. More importantly, at the individual level, it is found that some academic and administrative staff do not see the value of the reform. They suggest that the reform does not improve individual performance and lead to better accountability inside their organisations.

Based on the findings, performance budgeting reform focuses on strengthening accountability relationships between the Ministry of Economy and Finance (as the provider of the budget) and the other public sector organisations (as the users of the budget). However, the reform seems to ignore the accountability relationships inside individual organisations. The study found that the accountability relationships between public higher education institutions and their staff appear to be weak (or non-existent) because they do not have any exact mechanisms to hold their staff accountable for performance. Therefore, while public higher education institutions are legally required to provide management and financial reports to their parent ministries and the Ministry of Economy and Finance, it is questionable whether they can provide a complete picture of their situations in these reports. Consequently, there is a need to establish and strengthen the accountability relationships and mechanisms inside individual organisations.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

3 Applied research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Accounting and Commercial Law


Fowler, Carolyn; Truong, Thu Phuong