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Across the world, governments face the unprecedented impact of major simultaneous public health and economic crises. The on-going pandemic and looming economic recession require government interventions, which will impact public finances for years to come.

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, IFAC and the World Bank Group Governance Global Practice have come together for the inaugural THRIVE (Transparent, Healthy, Resilient Institutions for a Vibrant Economy) and second in the ADVANCE series of webinars: “The Sustainability of Public Finance—Supporting Resilient Response and Recovery in the Public Sector: Through the Lens of Accounting and Auditing.”

Held in English, French and Arabic language, the webinar considered the importance of high-quality financial reports based on International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) and showcased the tools available to support the transition to accrual accounting.

The webinar provided an overview of the global and regional landscape of financial reporting practice and public financial management reforms.

The webinar also highlighted the role of the accountancy profession in enhancing the quality, trust, and transparency of public financial reporting and financial management for the public sectors, a key underpinnings for sustainable economic development

Over 800 participants joined the webinar, with 86% of post-webinar survey respondents noting that they are more likely to promote IPSAS implementation in their country after completing the event.

How can strong accounting support sustainable finances in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis? Through the conversation with leaders from the World Bank, the Ministry of Finance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, IFAC and IPSASB, a few overarching takeaways emerged.

Strong public financial management is more important than ever.

In order to overcome current challenges, and plan for the future, strong public financial management is needed. Without a comprehensive understanding of public finances, governments cannot make decisions that support citizens over the long-term. In particular, achieving strong PFM requires adoption of accrual accounting and globally-accepted accounting standards, including IPSAS.

The COVID-19 crisis has shown the gaps in public sector infrastructure. We must improve public sector resiliency moving forward – and accounting is an important part of the equation.

Regional efforts are key, but remember that we’re all in this together.

National and regional governments have, for the large part, acted quickly to mitigate the health and economic repercussions of the pandemic. This is encouraging, but it also serves us well to remember that we’re in it together.

We are all fighting the same virus – and just as a vaccine will serve the interests of citizens globally, so will global efforts to provide financial support and learnings on policy and fiscal interventions.

Both the exchange of funds and information is key. Let’s not forget that we are all fighting this challenge together.

Take stock of any lessons for crisis-readiness moving forward.

Unfortunately, the COVID crisis is not the only pressing, systemic challenge we face as a global community. Climate change, for example, continues to threaten lives and livelihoods – and the consequences of the crisis will only deepen in the years to come.

To the extent possible, governments must take forward the lessons from COVID-19 – in terms of risk assessment, deployment of resources, policies to address ongoing crises, and others – to apply to future emergency situations we will inevitably face.

In short, this must be the time for change. Underpinning societies globally are strong governments – and governments are only strong when they make decisions that support citizens wellbeing. Good accounting practices and policies provide the high-quality information to support these strong decisions.

We must see the current crisis as an opportunity for change and improvement. When it comes to public sector sustainability, it’s about more than money changing hands – it’s about securing long-term health and wealth for citizens across the globe.

Darlene Nzorubara

Darlene Nzorubara is a Principal at IFAC. She manages the compliance and membership activities of IFAC's members and associates in Africa and supports the PAO Capacity Building Program as well as the MOSAIC (Memorandum of Understanding to Strengthen Accountancy and Improve Collaboration) Steering Committee. She also oversees Africa initiatives under IFAC’s MoU with Gavi, the Global Fund, and USAID to strengthen public finance management for greater accountability and transparency through the effective role of PAOs. 

Prior to joining IFAC, Darlene worked as a research assistant on governance at Baruch College in New York and worked for two years as a legal assistant for a law firm in Paris, France. Darlene has post graduate degrees in international economic law and in business and exportation law from Université René Descartes – Paris V and a Master in Public Administration from Baruch College.

Gabriella Kusz MBA, MPP, CPA, CGMA

Gabriella Kusz was a principal, Strategic Initiatives, at IFAC where she supported accountancy’s leadership and innovation in the digital era.

Gabriella also serves as board director at the Global Digital Asset and Cryptocurrency Association, a global voluntary self-regulatory association for the industry where she supports awareness building and education. She also serves as a Distinguished Global Expert for the Global Small and Medium Enterprise Policy Network at Prince Sultan University (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia), as an advisor to the Banque Saudi Fransi / PSU Global Islamic Finance, Tax and Zakat Centre, and as deputy chair of the Government Blockchain Association Regulator Working Group.

Prior to joining IFAC, Gabriella worked with the World Bank Group Governance Global Practice where she was responsible for leading the Corporate Governance and Financial Reporting workstream for the Middle East and North Africa region.

Gabriella is a licensed US CPA (Virginia) and CGMA and holds AICPA Certificates in IFRS as well as the Global Reporting Initiative Certificate in Sustainability Reporting Standards. She holds a Master’s in Public Policy (International Policy and Development) from Georgetown University and a Master’s in Business Administration and Bachelor of Accounting from the University of Dayton.