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This was a timely and relevant event which showed that there is a need generally for more financial awareness among MPs, journalists and the public
—Paul Moxey, head of corporate sector and risk, ACCA

The Government’s financial data and whether it is understandable was the central theme of a recent event attended by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), organised by getstats, a campaign of the Royal Statistical Society

The event, held just before the UK Budget for 2013, aimed to identify the gaps in public finance data and in political understanding and making recommendations for improvement. The questions asked included: 'Are parliamentarians and their constituents, let alone media and think-tank commentators sufficiently literate to make sense of the numbers? If not, how can this be addressed?'

Paul Moxey, head of corporate sector and risk at ACCA, attended the event and spoke there about the need for transparency. He explained: 'Fiscal transparency has become a philosophy of governments seeking to improve both finances and their own popularity. The drive for transparency has inspired governments to publish spending data, whole-of-government accounts, and a wide variety of other documents. This can only be a good thing.'

However Mr Moxey added that there can sometimes be a gap in understanding of what is produced and why, explaining: 'As an accountant, I am often asked if there can be true accountability if numbers are not properly understood? My answer is no; but then governments have a tough job to do in communicating complex information to many audiences, from civil servants to journalists and to the interested public.

'An example is the UK’s whole of government accounts, which consolidates the audited accounts of over 1,500 organisations across the whole public sector, so it is bound to be complicated; running to 243 pages it is still clear; but then I’m an accountant and am used to looking for the key issues.'

Paul Moxey also points to the need for trust and accountability, especially in the parliamentary system, highlighting the work of the Parliamentary Select Committees which have proved to be an important means for holding governments to account.

ACCA has highlighted in the past that training and development is key to understanding government finances. In ACCA’s recent report, Setting high professional standards for public services around the world, ACCA highlighted the need for fiscal transparency as being important for the benefit of the public.

Mr Moxey added: 'For the public to hold public services to account, information needs to be understandable, accessible, clear and timely. Therefore, ACCA is supportive of the definitions set out by the Centre of Public Scrutiny (UK) for promoting transparency, accountability and inclusiveness of information in public services. And for MPs, training and induction is also important when it comes to understanding public finances.'

Mr Moxey concluded: 'This was a timely and relevant event which showed that there is a need generally for more financial awareness among MPs, journalists and the public.'

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For more information, please contact:

Helen Thompson, ACCA Newsroom
+44 (0)20 7059 5759
+44 (0)7725 498654 

Notes to Editors

  1. ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. 
  2. We support our 154,000 members and 432,000 students in 170 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. We work through a network of over 80 offices and centres and more than 8,400 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through our public interest remit, we promote appropriate regulation of accounting and conduct relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence. 
  3. Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. We believe that accountants bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. Our values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and we ensure that through our qualifications, we prepare accountants for business. We seek to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating our qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers.