EU-wide accounting standards ‘could be introduced in stages’

3 Jun 13
European Union-wide public sector accounting standards could be introduced in stages, according to a Eurostat official.

Speaking at a Brussels conference on Thursday, François Lequiller, director for government finance statistics, also revealed that a framework for the standards could be published as early as next year.

But he stressed that work was needed first on the basics, such as how they would be set and implemented and the cost of introducing them.

We are nearly all here convinced more or less that Epsas – harmonised accrual accounting – is beneficial and is an essential project for the EU and its citizens. But it’s up to us to demonstrate that it is a realistic and achievable project,’ he said.

Under the timetable set out by Lequiller, a task-force will be established ‘shortly’ to better assess the costs.This will use a sample of EU countries ‘selected to include member states which are essentially cash-based, also member states that have already moved partly or significantly to accruals, in order to give an objective assessment of the cost depending on the various baselines,’ Lequiller said.

Eurostat would also consider if they could be introduced more flexibly, including in stages, he explained.

‘On flexibility, we will be analysing the possibility of reducing the burden and complexity of the standards for small public entities,’ he said. He added that Eurostat would also analyse – with the of countries that had already gone through this process – the possibility of 'partitioning the standards into different blocs' and introducing them 'in several steps'.

Having the right system of governance in place was an ‘unavoidable condition for any advancement of the project’, he stressed.

In Eurostat's March paper on the potential role International Public Sector Accounting Standards could play in any Epsas, the European Union's statistical service noted some member states were concerned the Ipsas Board did not feature enough representation from EU countries.

Under a potential approach set out by Lequiller, while Epsas governance would be independent from the Ipsas Board, the existing standards would serve as a ‘starting point’. He said: ‘Ipsas exist and are recognised as the international reference point. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.’

He suggested that Epsas could be set and implemented by an Epsas committee, comprising representatives from public sector accounting authorities in each member state. This committee would adopt, under qualified majority, the Epsas proposed by the commission and be under the oversight of the European Parliament and Council.

It would also be supported by two expert working groups, open to all stakeholders such as academics and auditors. One would consider standards, the other would be tasked with ‘interpretation’, he said.

The commission plans to consult on the governance issue before publishing a paper later this year. It could then submit a framework regulation to the European Parliament and Council in 2014 or early 2015.

‘This would set out the general principles – accrual, double-entry – which would confirm a reference to Ipsas as a starting point, which would define the governance and which would set the process of adoption of Epsas,’ Lequiller explained.

Thomas Müller Marqués Berger, chair of the public sector committee for the Federation of European Accountants, acknowledged that some public sector accountants still had doubts about the need for a separate set of Epsas.

But he stressed that if the project was to move forward, agreement on governance was needed as soon as possible to provide clarity for member states.

We already see reform initiatives in member states being lost due to the uncertainty of moving forward. If we needed the next couple of years only to see the governance, I would not see the advantage of Epsas anymore,’ he warned.

A ‘strong’ European governance process was needed, he said. ‘Any reform should ensure the independence of the standard setting process is strengthened. The composition of the Epsas committee and task forces is of the utmost important for the acceptance of the outcome. '

There was ‘no good reason’ not to use Ipsas as the basis of any Epsas, Müller Marqués Berger added. ‘The more relevant question for me is how to establish a transparent process to establish where adjustments are needed for European purposes, not to forget that Ipsas have gone through thorough due process,’ he noted.

Did you enjoy this article?

Related articles

Have your say

Newsletter

CIPFA latest

Popular

Most commented

Events & webinars