Accelerating PFM Reform in Africa

Alan Edwards, Chair, CIPFA Development, CIPFA | March 16, 2017 |

In Jacob Soll’s well-regarded book, The Reckoning, he stated: “From Renaissance Italy, the Spanish Empire, and Louis XIV’s France to the Dutch Republic, the British Empire, and the early United States, effective accounting and political accountability have made the difference between a society’s rise and fall.”

Indeed, throughout history, good accounting practices have powered nations, whereas poor standards have led to financial chaos and civil unrest. And as the economies of African countries continue to strengthen, it is important that good governance and strong public financial management (PFM) is in place.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) believes that a whole systems approach is essential to planning PFM reform. This whole system thinking provides a framework to boost delivery at country, regional, and entity levels. Such a holistic view enables public finance managers to understand where they need to focus efforts to better leverage service delivery, transparency, and accountability.

Earlier this month at the 24th Eastern and Southern African Accountants General (ESAAG) Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, I previewed an updated Whole Systems Approach to PFM, which is being launched by CIPFA later in 2017. This is accompanied by a new online platform for shared learning that is already available under the banner of “Delivering Excellent Public Finance.” This online tool provides links to a growing range of external materials so that PFM practitioners don’t have to search for official publications and research papers.

This whole systems thinking is not just theory but has been used by CIPFA in practice. At the ESAAG Conference, I used three projects that are part of the IFAC Professional Accountancy Organization Capacity Building Program funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) to illustrate this approach. These projects all included the development of holistic road maps, albeit with different agendas: International Public Sector Accounting Standards implementation in Ghana, equipping the PAO to support the public sector in Uganda, and strengthening the capacity of public sector accountancy professionals in Zimbabwe.

In his welcoming remarks at the Conference, the ESAAG Chair and Accountant General of Kenya, Bernard Ndungu, called for increased emphasis on the entire PFM cycle and more comprehensive reform programs. CIPFA believe that a Whole Systems Approach is the answer to his call to accelerate PFM reform in Africa.

The ESAAG 2017 presentations are available online.

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