Global experts formulate calls to action for governments and the public finance profession to push for progress in achieving the SDGs, and ensure the COVID-19 economic recovery is both sustainable and inclusive, with policy responses accounting for the human aspect of this crisis.
In December 2020, as part of its 10th-annual Virtual Public Sector Conference (VPSC), ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) convened two expert roundtables co-hosted with IFAC focusing on Sustainable Public Finances During Times of Crisis and The Role of the Public Finance Profession in Achieving the SDGs.
The 22 global experts, from diverse backgrounds and regions, formulated a number of policy recommendations aimed at ensuring that government responses to the COVID-19 crisis are both sustainable and inclusive, as well as how the public finance profession can, and should, play a pivotal role in driving national progress in achieving the SDGs.
Mark Millar, ACCA President, summed up the key message of the roundtables: ‘The COVID-19 pandemic is a human crisis that has exacerbated inequalities, further emphasised climate risks and caused massive loss of lives – it’s not solely an economic crisis. The public finance profession must demonstrate leadership in helping to not only build back economies, but to build back more inclusive and more sustainable economies.’
Experts agreed that as governments move from saving lives to saving livelihoods, the public finance profession can help ensure policy responses account for the human aspect of this crisis. Reacting to a situation unfamiliar to most governments was a difficult task and it required making quick and time-sensitive policy decisions. While the responses had to be fast, some policies led to inefficiencies, increased risks of corruption and may have exacerbated inequalities. The experts’ call to action was for the profession to be wary of both of these co-existing realities and to start taking note of what lessons can be learned and what we can collectively do better in the future.
Laura Leka, Senior Technical Manager at IFAC added: ‘A fundamental role of the public finance profession throughout this crisis is to promote transparency and accountability, both in the initial response and the recovery from COVID-19. Preventing and minimising fraud and corruption must be high on the agendas of governments as the opportunities, incentives and pressures to commit these crimes can be heightened in times of crisis. With its ethical underpinnings, the accountancy profession will be key in the fight against corruption and should play a leading role.’
The second roundtable on the SDGs focused on the important role that public finance professionals can play in holding governments to account and promoting awareness of the Goals. They must also work to ensure that COVID-19 recovery packages maintain momentum in working towards the SDGs and prevent policy responses from leaving anyone behind. To achieve this, finance professionals must connect financial and non-financial reporting techniques to account for broader value creation objectives beyond purely the financials to ensure progress is being achieved.
To continue the sustainability discussion, and linked to a recently launched report by ACCA on New Models of Public Procurement, ACCA is jointly organising an event with The Open Contracting Partnership on 26 January that will examine the lessons learned from the COVID-19 procurement crisis, and provide actionable next steps and best practices to design more transparent, fairer, and more efficient public procurement systems. It will explore how public procurement policies must extend beyond achieving the lowest-cost goods and services and how it can also be used as a tool in achieving critical social and environmental goals, closely linked to the SDGs.
To register for The True Cost of Procuring at Speed – Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Procurement Crisis, see link here.
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Notes to editors
For questions or comments about the policy briefs or the roundtables, please contact Alex Metcalfe (Head of Public Sector) or Rachel Bleetman (Policy and Research Manager, Public Sector).
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