Convening the Global Community to Build Resilient, Sustainable Economies
Gabriella Kusz, IFAC Principal, Darlene Nzorubara, IFAC Senior Technical Manager & Catherine Roe, IFAC Associate | January 25, 2021
In December, IFAC—along with our MOSAIC initiative partners—welcomed more than 400 attendees from international financial institutions, multi-lateral and bi-lateral donor organizations, and 80+ country governments, professional accountancy organizations (PAOs) and the private sector to the Building Resilient and Sustainable Economies Virtual Forum.
Designed and delivered through its Memorandum of Understanding to Strengthen Accountancy and Improve Collaboration (MOSAIC) Initiative, this virtual forum focused on key themes and issue areas that are top priorities for attendees. The below Session Briefs provide a snapshot of the discussions, questions and comments posed as well as access to the full-length forum recordings.
- OPENING SESSION – Building Resilient and Sustainable Economies – This session explored understanding the impact of COVID-19 on the accountancy profession, governments around the world, and multi-lateral development banks. It also considered how these three parties could work together to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19 and best position economies for future crisis. Special emphasis was placed on the role of PAOs in supporting governments, advancing transparency and accountability, and contributing to the provision of essential services.
- SESSION 2 – Strong Public Health Sector – This session explored the importance of public financial management (PFM) during times of health crisis and more generally to the performance of public health sectors around the world. Panelists discussed the importance strong PFM has in identifying initiatives that offer greater value for money and in safeguarding public investments in the health sector. Donor representatives stressed the need for flexibility when administering aid and moving resources to fit the needs of the crisis, as well as working at the national and sub-national levels to encourage achievement of program goals.
Participants all agreed that a well-rounded economy does not necessarily translate into having a well-balanced health system. Panelists and speakers noted that due to the many risks involved in managing and controlling a public health crisis (for example, weak governments, technology, weak fiduciary risks, and countries with no systems in place) governments need to have enhanced monitoring and identification of risks, the flexibility to tailor responses to any situation, and the capacity to engage with governments to manage the crisis.
- SESSION 3 – Sound PFM in the Context of an Emergency – This session highlighted approaches to support public finance transparency and accountability in an emergency with an emphasis on the adoption of International Public Sector Accounting Standards and the transition from cash accounting to accrual accounting. Specific focus was given to the importance of safeguards during times of emergency, the need for strong internal controls to prevent waste and inefficiency, and the design of interventions to emphasize overarching economic policy goals. Special attention was also placed on the need for strong supreme audit institutions, which oversee the use of funds, ensure effectiveness and efficiency, and recommend system improvements. Finally, participants noted the need for enhanced collaboration amongst stakeholders when responding to an emergency. All must work together, leveraging both relationships as well as technology to ensure successful provision of support to governments and citizens during times of emergency.
- SESSION 4 – Digital Transformation of the Accountancy Profession – Although digital transformation has been accelerated due to COVID-19, the broader theme of digital transformation is a longer and deeper trend, which will extend beyond COVID-19 on its own plane and with its own impacts. Digital transformation offers significant opportunities for the profession, including better data-driven insight and prediction, smart automation for routine work, improved employee engagement, and increased transparency. However, balancing those opportunities are challenges that must be addressed, including bridging the skills gap (upskilling), regulatory and cybersecurity issues, and implementation costs. Panelists focused on the efforts of IFAC in advancing PAO digitalization so as to embrace artificial intelligence, blockchain, cyber security, data governance and ethics, the efforts of the Inter-American Development Bank in leveraging its machine-learning bot, LUCA, to facilitate the public financial management and audit quality checks conducted by the IDB.
- SESSION 5 – The Power of Partnerships – This session began with an important truth: To harness new opportunities and fulfil their public interest responsibility, PAOs need the right capacity. This session provided insight into the World Bank Group cooperation and engagement with partner organizations, the experience of well-established PAOs in working collaboratively with donors, and the Asian Development Bank’s work with the profession to advance transparency, accountability and good governance in the Asia region. With discussion by the former chair of the IFAC PAO Development and Advisory Group, this session also provided guidance to PAOs on establishing and maintaining relationships with development partners and highlighted the importance of collaboration and engagement with key stakeholders.