The diffusion of public sector accounting reforms in German states

PhD project of Dipl.-Pol. Doris Böhme

Since the Nineties, accounting reform has become one of the common elements of public sector reforms in Germany, which actually belongs within the reform movement “New Public Management”. Expansion of the New Public Management debate which was taken up first of all in the English-speaking countries, also extended to Germany and other countries in the Eighties and Nineties. Over here this concept of public sector reform has been adopted for use in Germany and is now being discussed as the “Neues Steuerungsmodell”. Generally speaking this reform includes changing-over from the traditional cameralistic system, used for the last 100 years in the public administration, to double-entry bookkeeping (“Doppik”), which originally arose from business administration.

Public sector accounting reforms are being discussed and being implemented at state, federal states and local level, but at this 3rd  level the changeover is already well advanced. The interesting fact is, that the accounting reforms continue to be successfully implemented, while the introduction of other elements of the reform concept “Neues Steuerungsmodell” fails. These include, for instance, the contract management system between politics and administration together with the use of decentralised budgeting or intercommunal benchmarking. The majority of German federal states (13 of 16) regulate by law the changeover from the cameralistic system to “Doppik” at the local level. This means that the local level has to implement the new accounting system whether it likes it or not. In the federal states of Bavaria and Thuringia a special regulation exists at the moment: At this moment local councils, cities and villages in these federal states can still chose between using the traditional cameralistic system and the new double-entry bookkeeping.

There are different reasons why this development is in need of explanation: Firstly, the usage of double-entry bookkeeping in public administration is not uncontroversial. The diverse discussion contains different aspects such as the suitability or otherwise  of “Doppik” for public administration or the critical review of economisation in the public sector. Secondly, cost-benefit-analysis does not clearly conclude that “Doppik” is the better accounting system for public administration. Thirdly, there is no coercion to implement this reform for any level in the political systems of Germany.

Consequently, the main question of this research project is why public sector accounting reforms will be a story of success within administrative reforms which usually fail. How can you explain the diffusion and expansion of these reforms in German states?

To explain the development of this reform, in my dissertation I will consider three important aspects in the research process: The participation of the actors involved (politics), the institutional conditions (polity) and specific features/ characteristics of the policy “Doppik”.


If you are interested in the dissertation project, you may ask or send comments to: doris.boehme(at)uni‐



  • Prof. Dr. Sylvia Veit

January 2012 to June 2016

Type of project
Dissertation, Interview Study, Online Survey

Part of project
Umstellung des kommunalen Rechnungs- und Haushaltswesens von Kameralistik auf Doppik in Deutschland

Bavaria, Cameralistic, Double-Entry Bookkeeping, Economisation, New Public Management, Thuringia