Skip to main content

Public sector needs to prepare for sustainability reporting and assurance challenge

Public sector finance and audit professionals urged to take the lead on the sustainability reporting and assurance agenda

Oct 16, 2023 | New York, New York | English

Across the globe momentum is building for sustainability reporting and assurance in the public sector. The IPSASB decided to move forward with the development of public sector specific sustainability reporting standards beginning with a Climate-Related Disclosures standard. Finance and audit professionals working in government, public sector bodies and supreme audit institutions – Auditors-General’s offices, Courts of Accounts and similar (SAIs) –  can demonstrate leadership on this agenda, driving action to progress transparent reporting and assurance of expenditure and actions to address sustainability challenges.

At the World Investment Forum in Abu Dhabi on 16th October three global bodies, ACCA, IFAC and IDI launched a summary of their forthcoming introduction to sustainability and assurance in the public sector.

Based on their ongoing work and recent global roundtables with public sector reporting and auditing experts, the report makes the case for a focus on the principle of sustainable development: "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own need." It outlines what sustainability reporting and assurance mean for the public sector, why they are important, and key principles for governments, SAIs and other public sector bodies to consider in this journey.

Speaking at the ACCA/UN symposium on developing public sector sustainability reporting, Maggie McGhee, Executive director for Strategy and Governance at ACCA said, "A sustainable future for all is a primary concern across government activity. At the same time governments play a critical role in establishing good governance: the institutional, policy and regulatory frameworks in which society operates. So governments and other public sector bodies need to be able to measure and report on how their policies and expenditure are addressing sustainability challenges."

Laura Leka, Principal and public sector lead at IFAC said, "Policymakers and other stakeholders, including the public, need information to understand the sector’s impact on sustainable development. It’s important that sustainability reporting provides disclosures that are high-quality, decision-useful, and prepared in accordance with internationally recognized reporting and disclosure standards."

As sustainability reporting develops, independent external assurance will become increasingly necessary to build trust in the information being disclosed. Roundtable participants saw SAIs taking the lead, building on their experience auditing progress towards sustainable development.

Archana Shirsat, Deputy Director General at IDI, said, "SAIs have a central role to play in providing independent and objective oversight on sustainability information generated by the public sector. Determining appropriate forms of assurance or confidence, engaging with stakeholders and developing auditor competencies to audit sustainability information is important to build public trust."

Read the Executive Summary here.

About ACCA

We are ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), a globally recognised professional accountancy body providing qualifications and advancing standards in accountancy worldwide.  

Founded in 1904 to widen access to the accountancy profession, we’ve long championed inclusion and today proudly support a diverse community of over 247,000 members and 526,000 future members in 181 countries.   

Our forward-looking qualifications, continuous learning and insights are respected and valued by employers in every sector. They equip individuals with the business and finance expertise and ethical judgment to create, protect, and report the sustainable value delivered by organisations and economies.  

Guided by our purpose and values, our vision is to develop the accountancy profession the world needs. Partnering with policymakers, standard setters, the donor community, educators and other accountancy bodies, we’re strengthening and building a profession that drives a sustainable future for all. 

Find out more at:  

About IDI

The INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI) is an autonomous implementing body that is not-for-profit. Its mandate is to provide support to Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) in developing countries to enhance their performance and capacity in a sustainable manner. The work done by IDI is based on the needs and challenges experienced by SAIs. The support provided is focused on a needs-based and sustainable approach. IDI seeks to empower SAIs by promoting gender-responsiveness and peer-to-peer cooperation as essential elements of long-term capacity development.

In each country, there is a Supreme Audit Institution that is tasked with auditing public funds to ensure that it is an effective, accountable, and inclusive institution. IDI is convinced that its contribution to strengthening Supreme Audit Institutions can make a difference in the lives of citizens for several reasons. Firstly, government audits are key components of effective public financial management and good governance. Secondly, SAIs contribute to the quality of government engagement and better state-society relations through their work. Lastly, SAIs are key stakeholders in supporting the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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 180 members and associates in more than 135 jurisdictions, representing millions of professional accountants in public practice, education, government service, industry, and commerce.