ACCA Council Members discuss accountabilty, transparency in public sector

Wednesday, 11 June 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Lack of accountability and transparency must be addressed by governments in order to improve public trust, financial management and financial reporting. This was the thinking behind a discussion on the topic ‘Accountability and Transparency Central to the Public Sector’ during a recent visit by the ACCA global council member, Anthony Harbinson and Regional Director Stuart Dunlop at Sri Jayewardenepura University. Present at the discussion were Vice Chancellor Dr. N.L.A. Karunaratne, Dean Faculty of Management Studies and Commerce Prof. Sampath Amaratunga, Department of Accounting Head Prof. Samanthi Senaratne, lecturers representing the Departments of Accounting and Public Administration, the Registrar, the Bursar and the Librarian of the University. ACCA Sri Lanka Head Nilusha Ranasinghe and ACCA Sri Lanka Business Relationship Manager – Learning Dilani Perera also participated in the discussion. Anthony Harbinson commenced the discussion by stating that the public sector was of critical importance to ACCA as they have more than 15,000 members who work in the sector at present in 135 countries, while more than 350 ACCA members work in the United Nations and the World Bank. He pointed out that Governments today were wrestling with a number of complex challenges. “This is 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, where government financial statements should reflect the full economic impact of political decisions. Hence, the public sector needs to focus on best practice of reporting methods to improve accountability and transparency which fulfils the informational needs of all stakeholders. Therefore, a common challenge in developing countries and emerging markets is the need to grow financial expertise and capacity and retain skills within the sector. An absence of qualified accountants makes it difficult for governments to implement effective financial reporting based on accounting standards, as only technically trained staff can understand and apply such standards. Harbinson further explained  that, “On a positive note however, we are beginning to see a shift in thinking around the world about how public bodies report on their performance, with many countries in the developing worlds making significant improvements. That said, we need to ensure that this drive continues so that open and transparent reporting becomes the norm for all public bodies irrespective of country or jurisdiction. Public bodies need to put public trust at its heart and much more needs to be done in improving many aspects of public financial management and financial reporting. Key to these developments is how accountants are exercising and developing financial leadership skills.” He concluded by saying, “In my view it is increasingly important that professional accountancy bodies like ACCA work closely with public sector employers and members to support the development of these skills through partnership initiatives and through research which enables ACCA and the public sector to have an even better understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced. We are of the view that public financial management is absolutely critical to improving the quality of public service outcomes. It affects how funding is used to address national and local priorities, the availability of resources for investment and the cost-effectiveness of public services. ACCA has always strongly believed that the accountancy profession has an important role to play as custodians of the reputation of the public sector services around the world and has played a leading role in promoting such values which we will continue to do.” This presentation was followed by a discussion between the representatives of the ACCA and the University of Sri Jayewardenepura on some pertinent issues in public sector accounting with a particular reference to Sri Lanka.