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IFAC Urges G-20 to Take Action Against Inconsistent, Unreliable Public Sector Financial Reporting

Apr 18, 2012 | New York, New York | English

In a letter submitted this month, the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), the global organization for the accountancy profession with members and associates in 127 countries, urged the G-20 Deputies and Finance Ministers at their April 2012 meeting in Mexico to take action to encourage governments to seriously address the quality of public sector financial management systems and institutions. The letter, which is a follow-up to previous submissions to the G-20 in 2009, 2010, and 2011, focuses solely on public sector financial management, transparency, and accountability.

In March this year IFAC convened a seminar titled The Sovereign Debt Crisis, a Matter of Urgency―from Lessons to Reform, which included presentations, debates, and discussion involving key decision makers, politicians, and public sector finance management leaders[1]. Outcomes from the seminar included the identification of the compelling and urgent need for governments to address seriously the quality of public sector financial management systems and institutions. There was a call for the adoption of accrual accounting and budgeting to better measure and manage fiscal positions; noting that the current crisis emphasized the deficiencies associated with cash-based arrangements. A common theme that emerged was that, in many countries, the risks associated with the poor fiscal measurement and management exposed by the sovereign debt crisis are amplified by the fiscal risks associated with the aging population.

Urgent and fundamental work is needed to determine the nature of institutional change required in public sector financial management, transparency, and accountability

The four key recommendations in the letter are in line with IFAC’s mission to contribute to the development, adoption, and implementation of high-quality international standards; and by doing so, contribute to the development of strong international economies.

  • IFAC recommends that the G-20 facilitate urgent and fundamental work, to be conducted or commissioned by the Financial Stability Board (FSB), to consider the nature of institutional changes that are needed in public sector financial management to protect the public and investors in government bonds.
  • IFAC encourages the G-20 to make explicit that the FSB’s role encompasses public sector arrangements, as part of its aim "to coordinate at the international level the work of national financial authorities and international standard setting bodies and to develop and promote the implementation of effective regulatory, supervisory and other financial sector policies". In acknowledging the importance of the public sector as part of the FSB’s role, IFAC encourages the establishment of a working group within the FSB architecture, which is specifically tasked with examining enhanced public sector financial reporting, transparency and accountability.
  • IFAC recommends that the G-20 actively encourage and facilitate the adoption of accrual-based accounting by governments and public sector institutions, which promotes greater transparency and accountability in public sector finances, and allows for   monitoring of government debt and liabilities for their true economic implications.
  • IFAC recommends that the G-20 encourage FSB to include International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSASs) as a set of standards key for sound financial systems and deserving of timely implementation.

“For the last ten years IFAC has consistently promoted the need for better financial reporting and financial management in the public sector. The sovereign debt crisis has given rise to a very significant number of policy developments at an international level, but this issue has yet to be adequately addressed. The use of IPSASs by governments worldwide will improve the quality of financial information reported by public entities, which is critical for investors, taxpayers, and the general public,” said IFAC Chief Executive Officer Ian Ball.

The letter to the G-20 with the full recommendations is posted on the IFAC website.

About IFAC
IFAC is the global organization for the accountancy profession dedicated to serving the public interest by strengthening the profession and contributing to the development of strong international economies. IFAC is comprised of 167 members and associates in 127 countries and jurisdictions, representing approximately 2.5 million accountants in public practice, education, government service, industry, and commerce.


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