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Context Factors

Historical Context

The accounting and bookkeeping functions in the Austrian Federal Government developed in a diverse and distributed way. During the 1960s, the Federal Government system for bookkeeping and controlling consisted of approximately 85 bookkeeping offices covering 150 spending units across the 12 ministries and other federal government organizations. This proliferation of bookkeeping offices was the result of the law that entitled all spending units throughout the Federal Government to have their own bookkeeping office. The overall federal budgeting and accounting data was entered and accessed through each of these individual units. There was no technical nor institutional capability to access budgeting and accounting data across the spending units from a single access point. As a result, anyone who wanted bookkeeping information from more than one unit would have to contact each bookkeeping office separately, wait one to two days to get the information, then combine the results separately. By the mid-1990s, the existing system was reaching the end of its lifecycle and the Ministry of Finance was faced with the decision to develop a new system internally or purchase a ready-made solution from the market.

The Ministry of Finance determined that the information technologies available in the 1990s were much better and faster than the outdated systems currently in use. The newer technologies offered modern capabilities to improve the entering, maintenance, and sharing of accounting and budgeting data between the federal ministries and the Ministry of Finance. However, the Ministry of Finance officials knew that the other ministries were taking advantage of these newer IT capabilities to construct their own separate, diverse, and often very expensive IT solutions. Moreover, these solutions typically lacked links with the existing accounting and budgeting system. Even if links and an interface existed, there were no IT system standards or standardized accounting and bookkeeping work processes in place. Without these, the links across the systems would not enable gains in efficiency and effectiveness of federal budgeting and accounting. The resulting financial information silos within the government agencies severely limited the ability of the Ministry of Finance to integrate information. To do so required very expensive and time consuming processes of manually extracting and re-inputting the necessary data. In an effort to avoid this incredibly inefficient “double work”, improved integration became the central goal of any new initiative.