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Chorus: An Integrated Financial Information System for Policy Design in France

26 Mar 2019 | Written by Samuel Defacqz

Chorus is the financial information system (FIS) of central state administrations in France. Chorus’ scope is wide: from 2007, it has gradually been expanded to all ministerial departments. Its topic is highly sensitive because it deals with state finances and is the main application that public administrations use for this matter. Chorus is a case of an unlikely successful inter-ministerial collaboration for policy design as previous attempts to introduce similarly collaborative inter-ministerial ICT applications in France show.

 

Aims and goals

Chorus is used to collect, trace, store, and interpret financial data. Since January 1st 2011, after six successive implementation waves, all French ministries’ administrations, at the national and subnational levels, use Chorus for optimal financial management and planning. Chorus covers various functional areas: the allocation of state’s resources, the processing of state’s expenditures, the state’s asset management, the collection of non-tax revenues, and the integration of three types of accounting (general accounting, budget accounting and cost accounting). It allows policy-makers to know exactly and in real time the financial situation of the central state, a ministry or a given policy program. The project was launched in 2007 in the context of the implementation of the 2001 Constitutional Bylaw on Budget Acts (LOLF) in order to provide the state administrations with a unique and integrated FIS. The implementation of the LOLF and the development of Chorus provide for the first time common financial and budgetary standards to all ministries, which are recognized by the ministry of Public Accounts and all state administrations.

 

Key ICT features

The core software of the FIS (core Chorus) is based on ‘SAP ERP’, a business-management software (Enterprise resource planning) developed by ‘SAP SE’. This German-based corporation is a European multinational enterprise (Societas Europaea), that provides software to manage business operations and customer relations (mainly for the private sector). Beyond this core software, the FIS is composed by a constellation of interconnected applications with different purposes from e-invoicing (Chorus Pro) to the management of state officials’ business trips (Chorus DTm).

 

Implications and (un)intended effects

1. Legitimacy

Being an intra-administration project, Chorus had no structural effects on the relations between public administrations and the public, nor interest groups or civil society actors. Nevertheless, Chorus participates to the output legitimacy of the state by improving and speeding up the work of state administrations. Chorus makes it easier for all ministries to negotiate and design the state’s budgets. In this sense, Chorus acts as a facilitator through the data it provides in any decision making instance. Moreover, Chorus has improved the very process of decision making by considerably decreasing delays of financial and budgetary information circulation.

 

2. Efficiency and Effectiveness

The development of Chorus required organizational changes, notably in subnational state administrations with the creation of shared services centers. This reorganization enabled public administrations to adapt to budget restriction and to simplify administrative processes. Chorus also plays an important part in the digitalization of state administrative processes (e.g. e-invoicing with Chorus Pro). For instance, it has the potential to change the relations between public administrations and companies. The reputation of the French state being a bad payer might progressively fade away.

With regard to collaboration, Chorus enables ministries to have a shared repository of financial information that facilitates within- and inter-ministerial budgetary discussions at the stage of budget making and policy design. Chorus’ implementation resulted in a more efficient collaboration within state administrations.

 

3. Politics-Administration Dichotomy

Regarding the governance of the project, Chorus was originally initiated by the government and not by public administrations themselves. Chorus’ development followed a top-down and centralized approach. Not all ministries were immediately eager to participate to the project. Ministries were consulted in a preliminary stage. It was then mandatory for all of them to adopt Chorus and connect their own financial applications to the new integrated system. With respect to the effects of the project on the politics-administration dichotomy, Chorus had no direct impact on the relations between the executive power and the Parliament, nor between public administrations and ministers or their cabinet. As noted above, Chorus being a mere intra-administration project, its (significant) effects are to be understood in terms of collaboration within and between state administrations.


Further materials

The following sources (in French) provide an overview of Chorus and its related applications:

  • The presentation of Chorus on the website of the Agency for State Financial Information Technology (AIFE), the state service in charge of Chorus’ development and maintenance. Available here.
  • The latest AIFE’s annual activity report (2017) including information about Chorus. Available here.
  • The portal of the “users’ community” of Chorus Pro, the e-invoicing application developed by the AIFE and connected to Chorus. Available here.

About the Author

Samuel Defacqz, Sciences Po Grenoble – PACTE

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