Brief summary

Various federal tasks are outsourced from the central Federal Administration and are performed by legally independent companies and federal institutions. In its 2006 Corporate Governance Report, the Federal Council created common principles for the management of these organisations and uniform criteria for assessing the outsourcing of federal tasks. In essence, the report answers three questions that are central to the Confederation's ownership policy:

  • Which tasks are suitable for outsourcing? (typology of tasks)
  • How should the organisations charged with performing such tasks be legally structured and managed? (guidelines and management model)
  • How should the Confederation organise itself internally in order to protect its ownership interests? (division of roles)

Following on from the Corporate Governance Report, the ownership policy has been continuously developed. Initially, the Federal Council responded to various questions raised by Parliament during the consultation on the 2006 background report in a supplementary report (March 2009) and extended the guidelines. At the same time, it adopted an implementation plan setting out how it intended to put the CG Report into practice. Finally, in December 2010, Parliament approved the parliamentary initiative on the instruments relating to the strategic objectives of outsourced units and passed a law regulating Parliament's ultimate supervision.

1 Typology of tasks

Outsourcing was previously agreed without the assistance of systematic decision-making tools. A typology of tasks, which is developed early on in the CG Report, can now be used to check all federal tasks for their suitability for outsourcing. Based on five suitability criteria (sovereignty, intensity of political control, marketability, need for coordination within the Federal Administration, need for visibility and autonomy), it defines four task types with different levels of suitability for outsourcing:

  • Ministerial tasks include, in particular, policy preparation and sovereign tasks, the performance of which usually impinges on people's fundamental rights (e.g. security, justice). They therefore require a high degree of democratic legitimacy and political control; there is also a strong need for coordination with other tasks of the central Federal Administration. Ministerial tasks are therefore not suitable for outsourcing.
  • Monopoly services include services in the areas of education, research and culture. These tasks are close to the market and in principle could also be provided privately; however, since there are sometimes market failures (services that are not provided by the market and lead to undersupply) and for historical and socio-political reasons, they are often provided by the public sector under a monopoly. In addition, this type includes tasks which are determined by scientific, technical or international requirements and which have less scope for being shaped by politics. A common feature of all these tasks is that they are rarely sovereign and do not require significant coordination with other federal tasks; on the other hand, a certain degree of autonomy is advantageous. Nevertheless, closer political control is essential. However, since the tasks are rarely sovereign and a certain autonomy is crucial for success, they are suitable in principle for outsourcing.
  • Market services are controlled by the market, whereby a minimum level of supply is guaranteed, which is the main reason for the public interest. The public interest is generally to be taken into account by means of statutory requirements for the universal service (e.g. postal services). Market services are predestined for outsourcing, as the provider needs a high degree of autonomy to position itself successfully in the market.
  • Although the tasks of economic and safety supervision are sovereign in nature, they must – similar to the courts – be removed from political influence in their operational activities. Outsourcing is necessary here to ensure the independence of supervisory activities (e.g. financial market supervision, supervision of nuclear power facilities).

Tasks belonging to the second to fourth types are suitable for outsourcing, although the typology of tasks does not amount to an outsourcing strategy. Instead, it should be seen as a:

  • Guide to outsourcing decisions by showing, on the basis of objective criteria, which tasks are suitable for outsourcing and which are not;
  • Point of reference for the management of the federal organisations and companies that perform such tasks.

2 Management model and guidelines

In the Corporate Governance Report of 13 September 2006 and in its supplementary report of 25 March 2009, the Federal Council set out a total of 37 guidelines that are to be observed when designing, managing and controlling outsourced federal units. In its decision of 26 June 2019, it supplemented guideline 6 (4th and 5th sentences). Although the guidelines are not legally binding, any deviations must be justified (principle of "comply or explain"). The guidelines apply primarily to institutions. The guidelines for (private) companies limited by shares are already partially covered by the law on these companies. The combination of these guidelines with the types of tasks suitable for outsourcing creates the specific management model for federal organisations and companies.
In the case of outsourced services, the Confederation exercises its influence on the performance of tasks; on the one hand as the guarantor of the performance of tasks and on the other hand as the owner of the company. It can be the owner, main or majority shareholder. Its influence as owner depends to a significant extent on the legal structure of the company. As a result of the CG Report, the FFA therefore developed an organisational decree template for institutions, taking into account the guidelines, which is to serve as a standard for future outsourcing and for amendments to existing organisational legislation.
The strategic objectives for the outsourced units are another key instrument in the Confederation's ownership policy. As a rule, the Federal Council adopts strategic objectives for each outsourced unit every four years; only in the case of the economic and safety supervision units are the strategic objectives normally adopted by the supervisory body rather than the Federal Council. The strategic objectives have three interdependent functions:

  • They are the overarching instrument for the dynamic management of outsourced units. Their purpose is to regularly define the specific legal requirements with regard to the objectives to be achieved and tasks to be performed by the outsourced units.
  • They are the basis and reference for reporting and, together with this, form a logical unit (target/actual) in the steering circuits between the supervisory body of the outsourced unit and the Federal Council on the one hand and between the Federal Council and Parliament on the other.
  • They therefore act as a starting point for Parliament's ultimate supervision and involvement, which provides, among other things, that Parliament may instruct the Federal Council to enact or amend strategic objectives.

In the interests of increased uniformity, the FFA also created a model template for the strategic objectives, which serves as a toolbox for the departments to draw up and adapt the strategic objectives for outsourced units.

3 Division of roles/responsibilities

The main players in the Confederation's ownership policy are Parliament, the Federal Council and the Federal Administration (General Secretariats/specialist units/Federal Finance Administration FFA). The Federal Council acts as the owner of federal companies, while Parliament exercises ultimate supervision.

The internal responsibility within the Federal Administration for the preparation and coordination of ownership policy-related activities depends on the importance of the company: The specialist department and the FFA jointly assume this responsibility with regard to companies providing services on the market, as well as with regard to organisations that provide monopoly services and are dependent on significant subsidies. The specialist department alone has this responsibility vis-à-vis the other organisations providing monopoly services and the units responsible for economic and safety supervision.

4 Documents

Reports and principles


Last modification 03.11.2023

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