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Public sector finances – adding value in tough times?


03 Jan 2012


Euro & Finance

“Unprecedented squeeze on public finances will continue into 2017”, says leading public sector think thank.


“Audit and financial management adding public value” was the theme of ACCA’s (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) third international public sector conference held recently in London.

The conference was organised to draw out lessons learnt over recent years, and understand the key challenges from a range of high profile international speakers and focus on new developments, such as strengthening the role of audit and whole of government accounts.

Gillian Fawcett, head of public sector at ACCA, said: “At our first conference three years ago we asked attendees ‘how long will the downturn last?’ and 50 per cent said for 10 years or more; we thought this was an overly pessimistic prediction at the time, but it is now abundantly clear that we are in this together for the long term.

“The conference considered how audit and financial management can and do add public value. The value of audit and scrutiny are in the spotlight unlike never before. Auditors in the public sector are operating in financially constrained environments which bring new pressures and risks, as well as having to take account of the environment and climate change. Similarly, at the same time the demand for efficient and effective public finances and financial reporting are growing around the globe.”

The event attracted public sector financial and policy experts from around the world, including:

- Ian Mulheirn, director of the Social Market Foundation (SMF), a leading UK think tank

- The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the UK’s Public Accounts Committee

- Lazaros Lazarou, member of the European Court of Auditors

- John Doyle, auditor general of British Columbia Canada.

- Ibrahim Fazeel, director of audit, Auditor General’s Office, Maldives

- Jill Goldsmith, director of climate change and VFM, National Audit Office UK

    Professor Ron Hodges, Sheffield University

- Alan McGill, Sustainability and Climate Change reporting lead, PricewaterhouseCoopers

- Emmanuel Millard, head of the mission, performance of the public administration, directorate of the budget, France

- Karen Sanderson, deputy director, financial management and reporting group, HM treasury, UK

- Ian Trumper, trustee and treasurer, Transparency International (UK)

- David Watkins, head of strategic technical resource planning, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The experts gathered to discuss:

- Environmental audit, reviewing the role of the auditor, techniques and developments from across the world to audit and assess environmental and climate change impacts.

- Audit and scrutiny adding public value, discussing the value of audit and scrutiny for ensuring accountability, governance and the stewardship of public funds. It will draw out lessons learnt and key challenges and focus on developments such as strengthening the role of audit committees in public bodies.

- Financial management and reporting adding public value, which looked at the actions taken to tackle the on-going challenges and the actions being taken to turn around public financial management and provide more transparent financial and performance reports by governments.

Gillian Fawcett concluded: “The public sector is facing a tough future, but it is its finance professionals and experts who will steer it through choppy waters. Clear thinking and clear policy lines will also help, and this is why ACCA also launched at the event two research reports about public sector finances- PPP/PFI around the globe and Parliamentary Financial Scrutiny in Hard Times.”

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For further information, please contact:

Helen Thompson, ACCA Newsroom

+44 (0)20 7059 5759

+44 (0)7725 498654

Notes to Editors

1. The conference is available to download from ACCA’s website at:

2. Both reports can be downloaded from this site:

3. ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.

4. We support our 147,000 members and 424,000 students in 170 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. We work through a network of over 80 offices and centres and more than 8,500 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through our public interest remit, we promote appropriate regulation of accounting and conduct relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.

5. Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. We believe that accountants bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. Our values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and we ensure that through our qualifications, we prepare accountants for business. We seek to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating our qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers.