Developing the Accountancy Profession

Building Resilient and Sustainable Economies Forum: 7 – 11 December 2020

Alan Johnson, Ed Olowo-Okere | December 7, 2020

How do we build resilience into a global economy weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic? And how do we do so sustainably? These questions will be the focus of discussions during the MOSAIC forum – a coalition of accountancy professionals, international donors and development experts – to be held virtually from December 7 to 11. MOSAIC, which is co-chaired by the World Bank and the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), has invited a diverse group of experts to share their views on these questions during the forum.

Governments will, no doubt, be playing a leading role in building resilient and sustainable economies, as large investments from the public sector will be pivotal. Three areas for action, amongst others, stand out as necessary to make these investments successful.

1. Enhance public financial management

Behind every well-spent dollar in the public sector there is a system of public financial management (PFM) that enables budget formulation, budget execution, accounting and reporting, independent assurance and oversight. It allows for efficient allocation and use as well as accountability for public funds. It is essential for good governance and can help reduce corruption.

In the current COVID-19 context, governments are spending significant amounts on public health services. The efficiency of and accountability for this spending will depend, to a large extent, on the strength of the public financial management system. This spending may have implications well into the future. In governments, where and how money flows today will influence public spending for some years to come.

The public health emergency facing the world today will eventually pass, but emergencies—public health or otherwise—will almost certainly happen again. Strong public financial management is necessary for effective government actions during emergencies. It is also critical to managing the recovery programs. Strengthening PFM systems in every country will ensure effective management of public funds, before, during, and after emergencies. Governments will need the support and services of professional accountants to reform their systems and build financial management skills in the public sector.

2. Accelerate digitalization

Countries that have not made adequate investments in digitizing the public sector struggled to ensure business continuity during the pandemic, as some measures designed to contain the virus confined people to their homes. A World Bank Group study found that only 1 in 26 jobs in low-income countries can be done remotely, compared to 1 in 5 jobs globally. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for digital transformation of government and service provision for resilience. Strict public health measures have turned digital technologies into a part of daily life for countless people. Virtual communication, cloud computing, and cybersecurity, amongst others, have become common with the rise of remote work.

The public sector needs to build on this momentum and speed up digital transformation. Governments need to take the lead in addressing information and communication technology infrastructure barriers to transiting to digital economies. They will need the expertise of professional accountants as well as other experts in policymaking and finance to chart the path to digital development, including developing, financing, and implementing ICT investment programs.

3. Strengthen partnerships

MOSAIC promotes collaborative dialogue and action for capacity-building and sustainable growth. The MOSAIC Forum includes organizations with similar missions, where new or refined thoughts that emerge are shared among various networks beyond the Forum. The MOSAIC Forum multiplies the benefits of each partner’s contributions—and this has been evident in the development of the accountancy profession. A strong accountancy profession in every country is necessary to strengthen PFM systems and transition to digital economies, which are necessary to build resilience and achieve sustainability.

To predict and prepare for the future is far too large a task for one person or one organization. IFAC represents more than three million accountants and provides a global voice for the accountancy profession. The World Bank is working for sustainable solutions to reduce poverty and promote shared prosperity in developing countries around the world. IFAC and the World Bank will continue to engage in the MOSAIC Forum to support building resilient and sustainable economies.

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Alan Johnson

IFAC President

Alan Johnson became IFAC President in November 2020, having previously served as Deputy President from 2018-2020 and aboard member since November 2015. He was nominated to the IFAC board by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). On January 1, 2021, Mr. Johnson was appointed a non-executive director and member of the Audit and the Succession & Appointments Committees of Imperial Brands plc, a FTSE 100 company in the UK. He is a former non-executive Director of Jerónimo Martins SGPS, S.A., a food retailer with operations in Portugal, Poland, and Colombia, having completed his board mandate in 2016. He is currently the independent chairman of the company's Internal Control Committee. Previously he was Chief Financial Officer of Jerónimo Martins from 2012 to 2014. Between 2005 and 2011 he served as Chief Audit Executive for the Unilever Group. Mr. Johnson also served as Chief Financial Officer of Unilever's Global Foods businesses and worked for Unilever for 35 years in various finance positions in Africa, Europe and Latin America. Mr. Johnson was a member of the IFAC Professional Accountants in Business Committee between 2011 and 2015, a member of the ACCA's Market Oversight Committee between 2006 and 2012 and chair of the Accountants for Business Global Forum until 2018. He was a member of the board of Gildat Strauss Israel between 2003 and 2004. Mr. Johnson is the chair of the board of governors of St. Julian’s School in Portugal and chairs its Finance & Bursaries Committees. In October 2016 he was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the International Valuation Standards Council and chairs its audit committee. Between July 2018 and September 2020 he was a non-executive director of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and chaired its Audit & Risk Assurance Committee. See more by Alan Johnson

Ed Olowo-Okere

Director, Governance Global Practice, World Bank

Ed Olowo-Okere, a Nigerian national with three decades of experience working on governance issues around the world, leads the World Bank’s Public Sector and Financial Management team in the Governance Global Practice. This group is focused on helping countries build capable, effective, accountable, transparent, and inclusive institutions that deliver citizen-centric services, facilitate private-sector growth, and build trust in Government. The group provides expertise on governance issues, ranging from public financial management, domestic resource mobilization, state-owned enterprises reform/ corporate governance, public institutions reform, decentralization/subnational governance to anti-corruption policies, fiduciary assurance, political economy analysis and GovTech (i.e. leveraging technology to modernize the public sector and improve service delivery to citizens and business, and increase efficiency, transparency and accountability). Mr. Olowo-Okere joined the World Bank in 1998 and has held various positions in operations, including Director of Governance overseeing Africa, MENA and ECA regions, Senior Advisor in the Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions practice group, and Director of the Core Operational Services Department in the Africa region. Before joining the Bank, Ed held public- and private-sector positions in Nigeria, Britain, and New Zealand.


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