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Joint report on the parallel audit of Medium-Term Budgetary Frameworks


In 2019, the EU Contact Committee launched a parallel audit of Medium-Term Budgetary Frameworks (MTBFs) within its Fiscal Policy Audit Network. The SAIs of Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia and Sweden took part, completing the relevant national audits and assessments mostly in 2020 and 2021. The joint report collates and analyses the findings.

The parallel audit focused on central government budgeting and on planning or forecasting expenditure at least three years forward. The MTBF systems differed in each country, as they often reflected the national institutional legacy. The way in which the MTBF was reflected in annual budgeting varied even more. The audit aimed to assess the practical implementation of medium-term expenditure objectives and forecasts in budget planning, and their functionality in national and EU contexts.

The main audit question in the parallel audit was: Are medium-term expenditure objectives set up effectively and transparently in the budget process? Four countries found the answer to this question to be “yes”, while three answered “partially”. Some of the problems that were found were the transparency of the system and the difficulty in assessing whether the system was directing the level of expenditure or reacting to it and not achieving the objectives. It was noted that even in the case of those that answered yes, the actual functioning of the system and how it is used relies often heavily on political commitment.

The joint report summarises information on the expenditure objectives of all the countries audited, and analyses this information to draw parallels and common features in these systems. The political component in assessing the working of MTBFs complicate a clear normative analysis of audit results, due to a lack of uniform norms. Therefore, it is hard to draw universal conclusions on the best approach in specific situations. However, the audit results identified some common features. The audits also looked into MTBF functioning and expenditure objectives during the COVID-19 pandemic, and provided information on how these systems performed in exceptional circumstances.

Read the report