New ACCA PFM Qualification Tackles the Need for Effective PFM Training

David Henderson, Senior Qualifications Development Manager, ACCA | January 9, 2020 |

The public sector is changing. Our societies are demanding more services and better infrastructure, and organizations are increasingly being asked to comply with international standards. This comes at precisely the time we’re seeing the unprecedented impact of new digital technologies transforming the public sector, as well as the lingering impact of the financial crisis and increasingly uncertain global economic conditions.

The core objective of public financial management (PFM) is to improve citizens' lives through better management of public money. Many countries are recognizing that the former ways of operating a finance function will no longer suffice. Though there are some extremely talented people, overall there is a shortage of high-quality finance professionals in government and public audit. Citizens used to one-click ordering expect more from government than a paper-based tax form. And cash accounting is an insufficient tool for ministers and officials looking to make the best decisions on multi-year investments, public-private partnerships or the management of long-term government liabilities.

Strong PFM training underpins good decision making. It affects how funding is used to address national and local priorities, determines the availability of resources for investment and the cost-effectiveness of public services. It reduces the opportunity for corruption by shining a light on the public finances and making sure all money is properly accounted for. All governments must ensure they maintain fiscal sustainability and can properly manage fiscal risk. To ensure the best resource allocations we need accurate financial information—as well as effective regulation, high-quality governance and strong institutions.

New PFM Qualification

Considering some of these challenges, and to support our partners across the public sector globally, ACCA launched a new qualification in PFM in December. ACCA has a long history of involvement in PFM related work. That has included extensive involvement in capacity building projects in many countries, including involvement in the training and implementation of International Public Sector Accounting Standards. Through this work and from discussions with stakeholders, ACCA highlighted a need for introductory training in PFM. There is a wealth of specific, higher-level training available on all aspects of PFM from many well-respected organizations, such as our own Certificate in Public Sector Accounting Standards. However, there is very little that is designed as an introduction to PFM in order to provide a thorough grounding in the field.

ACCA has partnered with well-respected PFM practitioners to develop this qualification. Given the pace of change and size of expenditure in the public sector, it’s critical that finance professionals working in the sector have the right skills to deal with the challenges ahead. The Certificate introduces the essentials of PFM through a practical approach with a focus on global good practice.

The course is built around the PFM cycle:


The Certificate is delivered as e-learning covering the essentials of PFM over 22 units. This also includes an assessment leading to the award of the Certificate, accredited by ACCA. The Certificate will equip finance professionals working in public sector organizations with stronger and more relevant budgeting, financial reporting and financial management skills. Since, this qualification provide a PFM introduction, there are no formal educational requirements to begin studying.

The Certificate has been developed for:

  • New entrants to the public sector.
  • Staff with practical experience but without formal professional qualifications.
  • Professional accountants moving into the public sector from the corporate sector or professional practice.

The qualification is split into five broad areas:

1. Introduction to Public Financial Management

  • What is Public Financial Management?
  • Differences between the public and private sector
  • Overview of the public financial management cycle

2. Planning and Budgeting

  • Government and the economy
  • Policy making
  • Funding public services
  • Budgeting and budgeting techniques
  • Revenue management
  • Project management

3. Budget Execution

  • Budget execution strategy
  • Budget execution cycle
  • Cash planning
  • Debt management
  • Procurement

4. Accounting and Reporting

  • Accounting standards
  • Accounting procedures
  • Financial statements

5. Audit, Governance and Oversight

  • Auditing standards
  • Audit procedures
  • Types of audit
  • Governance
  • Ethics

The e-learning will take around 40 hours to complete and can be studied online at the learner’s own pace. The course is highly interactive and encourages the learner to think about PFM in their own country through case studies from other nations.

Better training in PFM does not just mean better decisions and more money available for public services; it strengthens the social contract by improving public trust in government. The public wants full accountability—and that means transparent management and financial reporting. Citizens are likely to have greater trust in public sector organizations where there is strong financial stewardship, accountability, and transparency in the use of public funds.

Overall, everyone benefits through strong PFM. Senior officials gain the information they need to make better, more effective decisions in the public interest. Citizens gain from more money for public services—that means more teachers, more doctors, better infrastructure and safer communities.

Strong PFM does not happen by chance. It requires clear commitment from the very top of the public sector, strong governance, robust institutions, effective systems and procedures and sufficient numbers of high quality, trained and professional finance staff. But getting it right has a positive impact that stretches beyond the public sector to provide lasting benefits for the whole world.

More information on the Certificate can be found on the ACCA website.

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