There is a critical need to build financial capacity and expertise in the public sector, ACCA’s (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) deputy president Anthony Harbinson will assert in his key note speech for ACCA’s fifth international public sector conference, Financial reporting for an open world’, to be held on Thursday 5 December 2013 in London.
Anthony Harbinson will maintain that this capacity and expertise is needed to ensure openness, trust and accountability in public sector finances, adding that public sector finance professionals have an important role as custodians of the reputation of this essential sector.
Mr Harbinson says: “Government spending on public services accounts for more than one-third of GDP in most countries around the world. Globally, the public sector is rapidly changing and the demands on public services are growing, together with the tax bill.
“Governments are wrestling with a number of complex challenges including austerity measures. But they also face the challenges of aging populations, rising healthcare costs, reform of welfare support, provision of quality education, the environment and climate change, defence costs, protection of natural resources, terrorism, crime and infrastructure costs – and strategic reviews of services need to take account of the changing world.
“This is at a time when public expectations of public services are growing and long-lasting improvements are being sought in the accountability and transparency of public funds.”
“Austerity still biting – we need more expertise”
ACCA’s fifth public sector conference comes at a time when austerity measures are still biting. Public services across Europe are facing austerity, not least in the UK where most public services are cutting out on average 25% out of their budgets. Given this environment, a common challenge in developing countries and emerging markets is the need to grow financial expertise and capacity and retain skills within the public sector.
Anthony Harbinson explains: “Without financial expertise, it is difficult for countries to develop the effective public financial management that will support growth. An absence or lack of accountants also makes it difficult for governments to implement effective financial reporting based on accounting standards, as only technically trained staff can understand and apply the standards.”
Mr Harbinson will also say there is a need for a change in attitude towards the public sector, saying: “There continues to be a view that the public sector is plagued by poor institutional fiscal management which is exacerbated by issues of poor public financial management and reporting.
“In some countries the accountability structures are being eroded, whilst in others they are under developed or are suffering from inertia, bureaucracy and a lack of political interest in reform. Public trust continues to fall in public services at a time when, I know from personal experience, public sector finance professionals are doing more with less and are continuing to provide the most efficient and best possible services.”
Mr Harbinson concludes: “I know that many countries in the developed and developing world are making significant improvements. But much more needs to be done in improving many aspects of public financial management and financial reporting.”
ACCA’s global public sector conference will discuss the direction of financial reporting by public sector organisations around the world, examining new developments aimed at improving accountability and transparency.
The event will host expert panellists including Zinga Venner, financial reporting and analysis manager, World Bank, who will speak about financial reporting developments around the world; Stephen Emasu, public financial management expert with the IMF, Fiscal Affairs Department, and Professor Michael Parker, associate professor of Accounting and Financial Management, Henley Business School and member of ACCA’s Public Sector Global Forum, who will chair a session about financial information leading to better governance.
The conference will be filmed, with the footage being made available to view on ACCA’s website (www.accaglobal.com) the following week.
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