PFM More Important than Ever

Alan Johnson Closing Remarks for the ICAI Covid-19 Global Webinar

Alan Johnson | IFAC Deputy President

Apr 13, 2020 | ICAI Global Webinar | English

Good afternoon and good evening to the webinar participants from across the world. My name is Alan Johnson, Deputy President of IFAC, and it is an honour to be asked to make some closing remarks today.

I would firstly like to thank the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India President Atul Kumar Gupta, Vice President Nihar Jambusaria, our many presenters and audience participants. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India is a very active and important member of IFAC, and it was a great initiative to hold this Covid-19 webinar today to discuss some very relevant matters in these challenging times.

I am especially pleased that Dr. In-Ki Joo, President of IFAC, and Tom Seidenstein, Chair of the International Audit & Assurance Standards Board were able to participate today.

I also thank the Indian and international speakers for taking time out on Easter Monday to share their views on the Impact of Covid-19 pandemic of reporting and assurance. We have heard from speakers from four continents, Asia, Australasia, Europe and North America, from colleagues in Korea, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Myanmar, Dubai, Australia, Spain, Ireland, UK, Romania, USA and Canada.

The insights shared over these last three hours have been most interesting, and not least because of the diversity of geographic views.

This shows the convening power of our global profession, coming together at time of need, to share our views from our different and various perspectives. This is the power of a global profession, willing to step up in our role to always work in the public interest.

Today’s webinar made a few things very clear.

  • Quality audit, and indeed the work of our profession generally, remains as important as ever to the healthy functioning of global capital markets and economies.
  • Our work is as important to multinational industries as it is to small businesses and in turn to communities, families, and individuals.
  • All of us are facing some of the same issues around the world, albeit it in different ways
  •  We have an enormous opportunity and responsibility to avoid fragmented responses to our current situations.
  •  And, the only way we can truly fulfill our mission of acting in the public interest is by acting in coordination, not as unique entities.

 I have been most impressed with the response so far from the profession to our current situation. I see us responding quickly and decisively, and I encourage us all to stay the path.

The challenges we all face from the Covid-19 crisis call upon our profession to do what we do best, which is to use our skills and expertise to advise and support governments, businesses both large and small, entrepreneurs, and members of society generally to plot the paths to recover from the serious impact of Covid-19 across the world.

It is clear that the world was not prepared for a pandemic of this nature. Our risk assessments did not anticipate this satisfactorily, and where they did the mitigations were clearly not sufficient. What we must do is take some learnings from the situation we find ourselves in and ensure that we are better prepared for global crises in future.

It is impossible to say how long the lockdowns will last, or indeed how much damage will be done to economies and livelihoods, and how long it will take to recover fully. But we do know that the damage is already significant across the world, and millions if not billions of people will be impacted significantly.

There are a few points I would like to make in concluding the webinar today.

1. First, our professional skills and counsel have never been more important. We need to help guide our governments, our businesses large and small, and indeed individual members of society in planning beyond the crisis to support a resumption of economic activity.

2. Second, we are also going to see public sector financial management become more important than ever before, as governments around the world are called on to support their citizens in unprecedented ways and often without the infrastructure or standards by which to so. Again, this represents not only an opportunity for the profession, but a very important responsibility.

We must continue to campaign for improvements in public sector financial management, including the adoption of International Public Sector Accounting Standards, to help governments have greater visibility of their resources and commitments and make decisions based on sound financial management to help them deliver better services to societies.

Facilitating effective management of public assets has always been part of the mission of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board, or IPSASB, and they work closely with governments and other stakeholders to help facilitate the practical implementation of their standards.

One thing clearly coming out of this crisis is that governments generally have not invested sufficiently in basic public services, partly because of a lack of resources or other political priorities.

We need to focus carefully on the question of what role our profession should play in helping to enhance public sector accountability, and ensuring that investments are made to strengthen public services everywhere in the world.

3. Finally, as we go forward, we need to focus on the learnings from this crisis, with respect to being prepared to manage global crises and our risk management processes need to be strengthened.

We have an important role to help strengthen risk management, both in terms of helping governments and businesses to plan and prepare for extreme risks that are rare in frequency but are significant in impact.

Before I conclude, I want to say that I am so glad that so many of us are able to be here today, albeit virtually, because it means we are healthy. At the same time I recognise how fortunate we are, and my thoughts go to all families across the world that have lost loved ones prematurely.

There is no question that the heroes of today and tomorrow and, quite frankly, the foreseeable future, are the doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, researchers, scientists—everyone who is working to save lives and helping to protect us. We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude, a debt that we may never ever be able to repay fully.

I am convinced that our global profession has never had such important role as now to support society in tackling this global challenge and helping governments and businesses navigate the path to recovery. Our professional competencies, a collection of technical knowledge and abilities, combined with our interpersonal behaviours, all underpinned by our ethical behaviour, are extremely relevant at this time. Never was more important our role as Trusted Advisors.

We need to continue to focus in earnest on the work that we do, which will be equally important on the other side of this terrible pandemic: as governments need the mechanisms to provide financial support to public health systems and citizens; as economies start to recover; as businesses need cash flow to rebuild….we have to be there as partners and problem solvers with them.

I have enjoyed following this webinar today, and I am proud that I am a member of a global profession that does so much good in society to make the world a better place.

My thanks again to all the speakers, to all participants from around India and many other countries around the world. I do hope that we will be able to get through this crisis soon.

Covid-19 has shown us that global pandemics do not discriminate and we are all impacted, some obviously worse than others, irrespective of our positions in society.

I also hope that looking forward we will find ourselves in a world that is fairer, kinder and more compassionate.

Keep safe and stay well!!

Thank you.


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