What do we know about what has worked, what has failed, and why? What lessons does the literature identify? Expensive integrated financial management information systems (IFMIS) have frequently failed to realise the promised benefits of reforming public financial management (PFM). There is a dearth of conclusive evidence to explain why this is the case.
IFMIS are complex, high-risk, and demanding in staff involvement and resources. This rapid review finds a dearth of rigorous knowledge with a weak and contradictory evidence base. However, major factors determining success and failure seem to be diverse, and relate to: programming; institutional factors; political factors; technical factors; and staff capacity. Drawing on the available literature, and 5 East African case studies the review highlights a number of lessons learnt.
Top lessons that authors widely agree on are as follows:
- Programmes should seek to improve, not replace, existing systems. Incremental and iterative approaches that phase in IFMIS work best.
- Arrangements for management and oversight of IFMIS need to be substantial and sustained. Many authors recommend setting up both a high-level steering committee and a management team of implementers. Commitment from middle management is essential (Peterson, 2006).
- Some authors recommend attaching IFMIS to broader organisational reform in PFM, while others advocate gradual small changes focused on IFMIS.
- Understanding the political positions and incentives of decision-makers and users is essential to get buy-in and identify opportunities to advance IFMIS.
- Technology must be chosen based on detailed assessments of financial processes, functional requirements, and staff capacities. It must adapt to incremental upgrades and local conditions.
- Capacity-building tailored to different users is essential from the start and throughout IFMIS.