Carrying out Effective Spending Reviews

Oct 26 – Nov 13, 2017 , Ljubljana, Slovenia Online course
Oct 18, 2017

Since the outbreak of the recent financial crisis, much of fiscal consolidation has relied on one-off measures and horizontal, across-the-board cuts. Over the recent years, countries in the region have made substantial fiscal adjustment. The growing spending pressures in our constituency accompanied by the need for further fiscal consolidation will require structural spending reforms. Spending reviews have proved to be an efficient tool for identifying potential areas where spending can be rationalized.


This learning initiative was designed as a two-week online course lasting between October 26 and November 13. This course replaced the previously announced face-to-face workshop on this topic. 

Depending on country circumstances, Spending Reviews may have the following objectives: Fiscal Consolidation – to reduce the growth or the level of public expenditure; Allocative Efficiency – to shift expenditure from lower priority to higher priority sectors; and Value for Money – to increase output per unit input within a given sector. Recognizing that such objectives can take several years to deliver results, the spending review targets the medium-term and tends to go in depth into a limited number of areas. Such periodic reviews allow fundamental questions to be asked:

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The two e-learning units (each lasting one week) featured reading materials, short video lectures and interactive exercises, enriched with weekly video meetings that allowed participants and faculty to discuss course content. Expected workload was five hours per week. The course was designed to be self-paced, and required participants’ attendance only at the time of joint meetings that were organized on October 26, November 6 and 13

At the CEF’s Online Learning Campus, participants were introduced to context of spending reviews and its link to the overall budgeting process. In particular the course examined spending reviews’ recent rise to prominence, their design and implementation, expected deliverables and outputs, and introduced ustilization of benchmarking to better target spending review agendas.

Moreover, the course included case studies of spending reviews in several countries in SEE region, as well as the EU’s perspective on promoting spending reviews in their member and prospective member countries throughout the Structural Reform Support Service.

What have you learned?

The course’s primary objective was to enable better understanding of the importance of spending reviews to the effectiveness of budgets. In particular the course explained the role of spending reviews in fiscal consolidation; shared experience with spending reviews methodologies, and challenges countries faced; and identified tools and skills needed for begin undertaking spending reviews.

After attending this course, participants were able to:

  • Understand the role of spending reviews, and how they can be used to deliver savings or performance improvements over the medium term.
  • Describe the essentials of the spending review process, and the form of outputs generated from spending reviews.
  • Identify starting points and data sources for initiating and justifying spending reviews.
  • Contribute to establishing spending reviews in their own countries.

Since the course was designed to be partaking, the participants have been actively engaged in discussions and exercises, and encouraged to share their country’s experiences and challenges in introduction and implementation of spending reviews practices. 

Who attended?

The course was designed primarily for senior level officials working at: 

  • ministries of finance (notably Budget Departments),
  • central government agencies responsible for policy prioritization and evaluation,
  • line ministries who actively participate in medium-term and annual policy planning and budgeting, 
  • and other government institutions in charge of research, analysis and audit of public policies performance.

Invited to apply were public officials from countries across Europe, and in particular the CEF Constituency countries.

Practical Information 

  • The course was held in English.
  • No fee was charged.
  • There were no limitations in number of participants per country or institution. 
  • To participate at this course basic information technology was needed (internet connection, and computer or tablet). 


This learning initiative was supported by:

Ministry of Finance, Slovenia Slovenia's Development Cooperation European Commission (EC)