Be open, ACCA urges govts
Governments need to ensure that they manage public funds in an open and transparent way so they can maintain the trust of increasingly aware and demanding citizens.
This is the view of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants’ head of public sector Gillian Fawcett, who was in Barbados last week to meet with public officers and share best practices in strong public financial management.
She told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY Caribbean islands were at different stages with regard to International Public Sector Accounting Standards but they were making “positive progress in many areas”.
However, she suggested that the whole system of public financial management needed to be considered, and not just financial reporting.
“Financial reporting is absolutely important for governments to produce balance sheets but it’s the wider elements of public financial management that are equally important, such as the budget process through to the auditing and scrutiny processes.”
With the Edelman Trust Barometer reporting that many citizens trusted big business more than they trusted their governments, Fawcett said: “The more that governments are open, accountable and transparent, the more likely the public will trust what they’re doing in relation to spending their money and delivering services effectively.”
Fawcett, who was a senior fellow in the office for public management in Britain, stressed the importance of public accounts committees in ensuring that concerns expressed by auditors were addressed.
“If you look at the UK . . . we’ve got a very strong public accounts committee and we’ve got a very strong chair of that committee at the moment and when that committee reports, the media are all over it.
“There’s a lot of public interest now because they’re tackling big issues and making big recommendations – and if those recommendations aren’t actioned, you have the media pursuing it on behalf of the public and you’ve got a public more aware than ever,” she said.
Fawcett noted that although governments often find some way of getting around some of the recommendations, the process usually results in some improvement in public financial management. (NB)