Ball urges Asian accountants to engage in PFM reform

19 May 16

CIPFA International chair Ian Ball has stressed the importance of good public financial management to improved service delivery and robust governance.

Addressing a PFM conference co-hosted by CIPFA and the Malaysian Institute of Accountants in Kuala Lumpar today, Ball said high quality PFM would improve the fiscal position of governments and aid both economic and social progress.

On the governance side, he told delegates that strong PFM systems can tackle corruption and boost transparency and accountability.

These effects, in conjunction with adherence to the rule of law, economic freedom and ease of doing business, all work together to create a “self-reinforcing system”, he explained.

But he told delegates that convincing politicians and senior managers to commit to PFM reform could be a thankless task. However, “explaining the benefits is part of the job” of accountants.

Earlier in the week, Ball told a separate forum that International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) are increasingly used as benchmarks in the evolution of good public financial management.

Speaking at the second Financial Reform for Economic Development (FRED) in Asia Public Sector Forum, also in Kuala Lumpur, on 18 May, Ball said: “Good decisions rely on good information.”

He told attendees that political commitment to and public awareness of the role of governance and PFM was low, and this created barriers to reform. He also identified that very weak sovereign balance sheets represent significant risks to financial and economic stability.

The FRED forum, which concluded yesterday, heard from a host of public finance and audit leaders from almost every country in Asia.

FRED is a joint initiative of the Confederation of Asian and Pacific Accountants (CAPA) and the World Bank, which formed in 2014.

CAPA chief executive Brian Blood said: “The increasing economic significance of Asia, together with ASEAN’s economic integration, is a potential game-changer for many of the region’s nations.

“However, success will depend on wide and deep acceptance of the principles of effective, accountable, and transparent governance. This is especially true of Asia’s public sector institutions, which must set the right policy directions and deliver high quality sustainable services if they are to maximize opportunities for their citizens in the global economy.”

In her message to the forum, World Bank governance senior director Deborah Wetzel also said governance was a critical area, highlighting the importance of open, accountable and effective institutions and effective revenue mobilisation that allows governments to offer more comprehensive services and reduce poverty.

Fayez Choudhury, chief executive of the International Federation of Accountants, which is backing the FRED initiative, said the profession had a critical role to play in ensuring sound financial management practices lead to economic development.

“FRED II advances an important discussion about the effectiveness of public financial management in building and sustaining economies,” he said.

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