The EP Intergroup on public services and the influential daily Europolitics organised a high-level conference called 'Public services in Europe: the moment of truth', at the European Parliament in Brussels. ACCA, represented by Gillian Fawcett, head of public sector, was invited to speak at the roundtable chaired by MEP Francoise Castex, chair of the Intergroup.
The conference concluded that rapidly evolving realities call for modernisation in public services. In order to be successful this must include innovative solutions in public procurement and effective implementation, fostered by active political willingness and a real change in attitude.
The discussions covered a wide range of public-service related issues, including the assessment of the public procurement and concessions package, the 'state aid to SGEIs' package, the importance of guaranteeing the affordability of public services, and the impact of the crisis on the social dialogue.
Gillian Fawcett focused her presentation on devising solutions, including transparency and accountability of public sector financial reporting and public private partnerships (PPPs).
Gillian Fawcett said 'If governments expect private companies to prepare a balance sheet then why shouldn’t they produce a balance sheet themselves? This is particularly important for promoting accountability and transparency when it comes to accounting for transactions such as public private partnerships (PPPs) and private finance initiatives (PFIs) as it will help to shine a light on the financial sustainability of these schemes. A balance sheet will allow governments to better understand the liabilities they are potentially stacking up for future generations'.
'ACCA’s recent review of financial management across public services highlighted an absence of financial strategy and long-term planning. Clearly these gaps need addressing and we need to understand how to effectively build financial capacity and expertise across public services. ACCA has begun this conversation by producing a policy document ‘Setting high professional standards for the public sector around the world’. The public sector is rapidly changing and the demands on public services are growing, together with the tax bill. 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', pointed out Gillian Fawcett.
Other speakers were Joaquin Almunia, vice-president of the European Commission, Gert-Jan Koopman, deputy director general for state aid at DG Competition, Pierre Bauby, doctor in Political Science, Olivier Girard, member of the cabinet of commissioner Michel Barnier, Marc Tarabella, MEP (S&D, Belgium), rapporteur on the public procurement directives, Franck Engel, MEP (EPP, Luxembourg), shadow rapporteur on the public procurement directives, Laurent Ghekière, director for European affairs at the Union Sociale pour l’Habitat (USH), Raymond Hencks, member of the European Economic and Social Committee, author of a report on the affordability of SGEIs, Pascal Garel, director general of the European Hospital and Healthcare Federation (HOPE) and Klaus Heeger secretary general of European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions, (CESI).