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Pensioners without Pensions. Schools without Students. Wells without Water.

Kevin Dancey, Helen Brand  | 

These are just a few human consequences that can result – and do result – when governments don’t have the financial information necessary to make the best long-term decisions for their citizens.

Cash accounting, which 75 percent of governments around the world use in some form, is of course useful. But ultimately, cash accounting doesn’t present the most accurate picture of a government’s financial health, nor does it enable decision makers in the public sector to adequately plan for the development, delivery, and maintenance of the services, programs, and infrastructure on which people rely. And that, in turn, leads to a breakdown of trust in governments.

Accrual accounting creates the ability to recognize, value and manage public sector assets and liabilities. A government using accrual accounting has, for example, the mechanism to record where its wells are and assign them value based on their working condition – crucial in assessing whether they are delivering lifesaving water for people. In cash accounting, conversely, the construction costs are recognized in year one, but after that visibility is lost. There are essentially no records to help track the utility of the well, whether it needs maintenance, whether there are funds for more wells. This is an actual example discussed in this report, and one that reminds us of the very tangible impacts that accrual accounting systems can have on human lives.

While wells might be the order of the day in some jurisdictions, other economies would benefit from public sector accrual accounting that enables the effective management of liabilities. For example, this would be crucial to the health of a pension system or the development of a carbon offset program. Regardless of the application, accrual accounting and budgeting is a game changer. It’s why we, as IFAC and ACCA, are so committed to the support, adoption, and implementation of International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) that underpin public sector accrual accounting, and to the development of a robust profession with the capacity to understand, implement and manage such systems.

We are very encouraged that the 2018 International Public Sector Financial Accountability Index found that 65 percent of governments surveyed have implemented accrual accounting, or plan to implement it by 2023.

The report, “Is Cash Still King? Maximising the Benefits of Accrual Information in the Public Sector”, not only confirms that a complete public sector transition to accrual accounting will serve the public interest, but also contains 30 specific recommendations to improve accrual implementation.

To the finance professionals and public sector decision makers who are leading this important transition, we commend you and support you.


For more, view these video interviews via YouTube:

3 Ways Accountants Support Strong Public Sectors    How Accrual Accounting Can Improve Citizen Lives 3 Ways Accountants Support Strong Public Sectors  

3 Pieces of Advice for Governments Implementing
Accrual Accounting
                                                            Our Role in Building Strong Public Sectors

Kevin Dancey

Former Chief Executive Officer, IFAC

Kevin Dancey, CM, FCPA, FCA is IFAC’s former Chief Executive Officer (2019-2023).

Mr. Dancey has a long history of leadership in the accountancy profession as well as in public service. As Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants President and CEO, Mr. Dancey led the Canadian accountancy profession’s unification, becoming CPA Canada’s first President and CEO after the merger. His experience also includes serving as the Assistant Deputy Minister, Tax Policy, at Finance Canada (1993-1995); on the Canadian Auditor General Panel of Senior Advisors (2006-2015); and as an Auditing and Assurance Standards Oversight Committee member (2017-2018) and CCAF-FCVI Inc. board member (2008-2013).

Mr. Dancey’s international accountancy experience includes the Public Interest Oversight Board (2017-2018), the IFAC board (2006-2012) and the Global Accounting Alliance (2006-2016), where he was also Chair from 2008 to 2012.

Prior to joining the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, Mr. Dancey was PwC’s Canadian Senior Partner and CEO and was a PwC Global Leadership Team member from 2001-2005. He was national tax practice leader for Coopers & Lybrand before the merger with Price Waterhouse.

Mr. Dancey previously chaired Finance Canada’s Departmental Audit Committee (ended on December 31, 2022) and was a member of the Advisory Board of the CPA Canada Martin Family Initiative, which mentors Canadian indigenous youth, having previously served as the National Coordinator for the program. He is also a Senior Fellow at the CD Howe Institute, a Canadian research institute dedicated to raising living standards through economically sound public policies.

Mr. Dancey is a Fellow at CPA Ontario, where he first qualified, and a member of CPA Canada. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hon.) in Mathematics & Economics from McMaster University (Canada) and an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Waterloo.

Mr. Dancey is a member of the Order of Canada.

Helen Brand

Chief Executive, ACCA

Helen Brand is the chief executive of ACCA, the global body for professional accountants, a post she has held since 1 September 2008.  Ms. Brand has a keen focus on global relationship management for ACCA, and is particularly interested in the development of the accountancy profession in emerging economies. She has considerable experience and knowledge of the 170 markets in which ACCA currently operates, and has worked closely with IFAC in an advisory capacity.