ICGFM Promotes Knowledge Transfer Among Public Financial Management Experts

Working globally with governments, organizations, and individuals, the International Consortium on Governmental Financial Management is dedicated to improving financial management by providing opportunities for professional development and information exchange.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

ICGFM Public Financial Management Polls

The International Consortium on Governmental Financial Management conducts polls during conferences. The 2010 Winter Conference focused on transparency and international public sector standards.

ICGFM Transparency Standards Workshop

Attendees at the 2010 ICGFM Winter Conference worked through numerous questions on the use and impact of transparency standards in Public Financial Management (PFM). Some observations from the workshop groups.

1. What standards could or have had the greatest impact on transparency?

  • Standards adopted by the international community, by their very nature, have a positive impact in countries

  • Some standards have legal basis in the country

  • IPSAS and accrual accounting standards, auditing standards, aid transparency standards

  • Transparency portals on procurement, human resources, budget

  • Right to information

  • Citizens are recognizing the value of transparency and are now demanding more

  • Standard accounting information enables benchmarking countries
2. What were or would be the greatest obstacles to transparency?

  • Political will defines whether standards will be uniformly respected and whether unlawful activity will be punished (just because there is a law doesn't mean that it is respected)

  • Education and capacity in public servants (one person said "capacity, capacity, capacity")

  • Proper compensation for public servants

  • Lack of accountants in developing countries

  • Brain drain of qualified personnel

  • Honest and transparent public servants

  • More effort by citizens and civil society to demand more transparency and create transparency momentum

  • Lack of credibility by citizens in the information disclosed by governments

  • Lack of historic information to provide context

  • Media can often have a political agenda, so may use disclosure for political reasons

  • Focus of reform can shift after an election

  • Conflicting laws, lack of legal backing

  • General resistance to change

  • Different donor requirements that push governments in different directions

  • Attempting to do much at the same time

  • Lack of strong monitoring and evaluation

  • De-centralization has pushed accountability to lower tiers where the accounting is not always easy to consolidate or audit

  • Organization structure of internal audit may not be conducive

  • Nationalism in some countries who feel that they are giving up sovereignty

  • Barrier based on the "unknown" in order to start the process and give up on previous standards
3. Are there any key preconditions to implementing new standards?

  • Effective training for public sector employees

  • Treasury Single Account (TSA)

  • Appropriate IT infrastructure, power and bandwidth

  • Uniform Chart of Accounts (COA)

  • Political buy-in to carry process forward (although there seems to be more will for transparency than in the past)

  • Legal standing of standards in order to make people and organizations accountable

  • Acceptable internal PFM standards

  • Need for public servants to be accountable - that there are legal consequences

  • Training population and civil society on the information being presented by the government

  • Use of social oversight tools and access to technology

  • Strong Supreme Audit Institutions

  • Freedom of the press

  • Certification processes to train accountants for government service

  • Need to define the government controlled entities

  • Need to build a value proposition to stakeholders, more communications

Aid Policy and Management, the Rwandan Experience

Clement Ncuti, Budget Advisor, Rwanda, described the challenges facing the government in aid effectiveness at the ICGFM Winter Conference. These included:

Human and institutional capacities

  • Predictability because of aid conditionality

  • High transaction costs

  • Requests for unstructured data from donors

  • Lack of alignment with government priorities

Mr. Ncuti described the Rwanda aid effectiveness policy. He warned that the challenge is to implement the policy. Lessons were learned to improve the effectiveness of the policy after implementation. Aid effectiveness must be country driven in order to be successful.

The aid effectiveness policy goals of the Government of Rwanda are:

  • Use of reliable country systems

  • Alignment to national priorities

  • Strengthening local capacities

  • More predictable aid

  • Untied aid

  • Use of common arrangements

  • Results-oriented frameworks

  • Mutual accountability

Mr. Ncuti described the institutional framework in Rwanda for aid policy implementation. He described the criteria for placing aid on budget and the process of aligning aid to country priorities. Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) is used in the creation of budgets. The Government of Rwanda uses the Development Assistance Database (DAD) and an in-house Integrated Financial Management Information System. These systems are not integrated.

The key lesson learned, according to Mr. Ncuti is the need for mainstreaming of an Aid Policy requires extensive input and ownership over the policy from across government at both technical and political levels

Using Government Chart of Accounts for Tracking Aid Flows and Expenditures in the budget4

Tithokoze Samuel, Principal Budget Officer, Ministry of Finance, Malawi, describes the financial management systems in use at the ICGFM Winter Conference. She described the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMIS), use of Treasury Single Account (TSA) and expenditure management.

Ms. Samuel described the limitations of the IFMIS. Many transactions are not controlled by the IFMIS including domestic revenues, domestic debt, external loan, donor projects, payments at the council level. This information is uploaded from other information systems, although the data transfer tends to be a month late.

Ms. Samuel described the footprint of donor aid in Malawi. She described the use of the Aid Management Platform. The Government Chart of Accounts tracks donor support in the budget. However, she pointed out, donors have many different unique codes. She described the four Chart of Accounts segments and the donor codes. She pointed out that getting disbursement information from donors is delayed, yet the IFMIS is real-time. She described the difficulties matching information from the IFMIS and the AMP.

Ms. Samuel hopes that donors can be encouraged to use the IFMIS for disbursements in order to get real-time effective data. The Government COA demands a lot of detail that promotes transparency and accountability, she concluded. It is imperative that cooperating partners not using country expenditure system be encouraged to do so as this reduces time required to produce expenditure reports. She stated that it is possible to track all donor financed projects in the budget and the corresponding expenditures if country systems used.

Malawi Experience in Aid Information Systems

Aaron Batten, Economist, Ministry of Finance, Malawi, described why aid should be managed at the country level. He described the aid profile of Malawi including funds that are on-treasury, on-budget and on-plan.

Mr. Batten described the problems associated with low technical capacity while managing data from multiple donors within the budget cycle. The Government of Malawi had only ad-hoc information from donors with at least half of the information unavailable to the government. This undermined the budget cycle. He described the process of implementing the Aid Management Platform (AMP) to coordinate aid with the country budget cycle. The biggest challenge was to establish consistent and timely donor reporting to the government.

Mr. Batten described the advantages of using an aid management system in Malawi. Malawi was able to tailor data standards to meet country needs. Donor funds are integrated at aggregate levels, but execution by the government is at a more detailed level. He showed some of the codes.

Mr. Batten found that timely and frequent aid information from donors is more important than accuracy for effective budget control and management. Unless aid information is given to recipients in a very timely manner it is often not very useful for budget control. The Government of Malawi accepts that some of the data may be inaccurate that will need to be fixed later.

Malawi changes classifications and modernizes functions. Therefore, systems much support this type of country level of dynamism according to Mr. Batten. Data needs and priorities change and donors need to be flexible. He concluded that donors need to be responsive and accountable at the country level to enable public financial management reform. The task for recipients is to utilize this information in a way that improves public financial management.

A survey of ICGFM attendees found that almost 1/3 of countries receive no aid information from donors.

Technical Solutions and Standards to Bring Transparency to Donor Aid

Samuel Moon, Research Officer, Overseas Development Institute, moderated a panel discussion on aid transparency and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). Mr. Moon described the history of IATI since the Accra Agenda for Action.

The ODI studied whether budgetary classifications, in the Chart of Accounts, used in developing countries could be consistent with an aid standards. The study examined any common ground amoung budgetary classifications.

Mr. Moon pointed out that large amounts of aid can disrupt the accountability cycle in developing countries. ODI studied information at the donor and country level. 14 countries were selected. The study examined the OECD/DAC CRS and COFOG classifications.

The study focused on the organization and function codes for government charts of accounts. The study uncovered significant similarities among countries however there were limitations in the CRS and COFOG standards. Mr. Moon described some of the budget classification problems such as in the case of where police is found in the Chart of Accounts. He found that the classifications of health functions were inconsistent in the study.

Mr. Moon described the similarities found with the creation of a "spine" classification that could form the basis of a standard. He concluded that interfacing information on aid with budget systems will be country specific.

The paper is available at: http://www.odi.org.uk/resources/details.asp?id=4801&title=aid-effectiveness-agenda-recipient-countries-budget

Public Financial Management Responses to an Economically Challenging World

Jason Levergood, Senior Manager at Grant Thornton LLP, provided an overview of the ICGFM Worldwide Survey, Public Financial Management Responses to an Economically Challenging World on December 7th. at the ICGFM Winter Conference. Public financial managements from over 50 countries were surveyed in 2010.

The survey found that the financial crisis and stimulus packages have had significant impact on public financial managers. Yet, in this environment of doing more with less, governments have accelerated reforms including support for international standards and improvements in transparency.

Mr. Levergood described the survey results for stimulus programs, use of public private partnerships (PPPs), infrastructure investment and increasing transparency. 76% of respondents said that their countries have made or renewed a strong commitment to public fianncial management transparency. 80% of respondents said that their countries are adopting international standards. The survey found that the use of the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) is gaining interest but has not been widely adopted in government.

The survey concludes with the observation that "public financial managers face some of the most challenging times in decades in meeting their responsibilities, but they have faced them no only with a variety of policy measures but with an unprecedented commitment to transparency".

Public Financial Management Responses to an Economically Challenging World 2011 ICGFM Survey

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Why is Accounting so Important in the Public Sector

Dr. Jesse Hughes summed up the importance of public sector accounting at the 2010 ICGFM Winter Conference. The Professor Emeritus of Old Dominion University travels the globe helping governments improve public financial management. His passion for a profession not known for its passion is partly captured in this video.

Implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

Dr. Andre Ufer, Sustainable Energy – Oil, Gas and Mining, The World Bank described implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) globally and at the country level at the IGFM Winter Conference. Dr. Ufer asked why it is important to have transparency at the sector level. He contrasted the difference between mineral and fishery industries.

Dr. Ufer provided a history of origins of EITI. He described the "paradox of plenty" in countries with mineral resources: poor development results and high corruption. EITI was luanched in Johannesburg in 2002.

The purpose of EITI is to help resource-rich developing countries in their own national efforts to better manage natural resources. Dr. Ufer described how the “resource curse” effects of oil gas and mining wealth can be managed through accountability and transparency. Transparency gives civil society an oversight role. He described how EITI supports standards for through open dialog, public/private sector balance, and transparency.

Dr. Ufer described the EITI process and the adoption to date by countries and private sector organizations.

Dr. Ufer described EITI benefits to governments:

  • Demonstrate value of the sector to citizens

  • Income across all government organizations consolidated

  • Improve government credit-worthiness

  • Less risk to private sector investment

  • Strong brand in accountability
Benefits to business was also described:

  • Demonstrates value of business to citizens

  • Reduces operational risks

  • Improves relationships with governments

  • Reduces reputational risks

Dr. Ufer described the motivations for countries to implement EITI. He provided case studies of Nigeria and Ghana. Nigeria exceeded EITI requirements and an audit found significant unresolved differences in payments and receipts.

Dr. Ufer suggested that EITI has achieved strong momentum. IASB (International Accounting Standard Board) is currently working on a possible country-by-country reporting requirement. He stated that there is a general agreement that longer-term outcomes need to be tracked. The future impact of EITI is still a work-in-progress. He pointed out that EITI provides a very narrow focus on disclosure.

IPSAS Case Study in Republic of Georgia

Nino Tchelishvili, Deputy Head, Treasury Service of the Republic of Georgia described the government adoption of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) at the ICGFM Winter Conference. She described the challenges of moving from a planned to a market economy. The public financial management functions were designed on the socialist model and did not meet international standards. She described how assets were not properly defined in the old system.

Georgia is a top reformer during according to the World Bank. Ms. Tchelishvili described some of the initiatives taken by the government since 2003 such as the adoption of the Treasury Single Account (TSA). She described the difficulties of accounting for government businesses and local service providers like hospital. Government entities operated on a cash basis, but parastatal organizations operated on accrual accounting. Consolidation is almost impossible to achieve given so many different systems and accounting methods.

Ms. Tchelishvili described some limitations including the lack of an Integrated Financial Management Information System.

Ms. Tchelishvili described the six phase strategy implementation strategy in Georgia:

  1. 2010 Initiation
    Strategy agreed; Georgian Public Sector Accounting Standards Board formed; translation IPSAS initiated

  2. 2012 Pilot
    Pilot financial statements under modified cash basis IPSAS

  3. 2015 Modified Cash IPSAS
    Gov’t consolidated financial statements (excluding GBEs) under modified cash IPSAS (cash IPSAS + additional information)

  4. 2017 Some accrual
    Simple accrual information provided under modified cash IPSAS Part II (GBEs not consolidated)

  5. 2020 Accrual IPSAS
    Financial statements in full compliance accrual IPSAS

  6. Ongoing
    Programme for ongoing adoption of new IPSAS

Ms. Tchelishvili described the capacity building process in Georgia using a certification process that professionalizing public accountants.

Ms. Tchelishvili described the differences in GFS and IPSAS definitions of government entity and government sector. She pointed out the reform in Georgia will cover all aspects of the public sector. She provided a decision-tree to define whether an organization is a government-owned business or a non-profit organization controlled by the government.

The modified cash approach to be used by the Government of Georgia in phase 3 using IPSAS 2 format cash flow statements. Ms. Tchelishvili described the mandatory and encouraged portions of the standard.

Ms. Tchelishvili described the current status in the Republic of Georgia:

  • IPSAS Strategy adopted and approved by Ministerial Decree in 2009

  • Georgian Public Sector Accounting Standards Board (GPSASB) established as permanent consultative body under the Government of Georgia in 2010

  • 11 different pilot organizations selected for implementing modified cash basis IPSAS.

Lessons learned from the IPSAS project include:

  • If supporting GFS 2001, not that difficult to support IPSAS modified cash accounting

  • IPSAS implementation needs to be phased over a decade or longer

  • Fully implementing the Cash Basis IPSAS at national government level is not feasible for any country

  • A country is not compliant with accrual IPSAS until all implemented and is not feasible except in very long term

Ms. Tchelishvili conducting a survey of attendees about IPSAS:

  • 44% same Chart of Accounts for cash and accrual accounting, 40% plan to implement, 16% no plans

  • 26% Permanent independent body for IPSAS, 22% consultative body under the government, no board 52%

  • 82% agreed that IPSAS requires an Integrated Financial Management System (IPSAS) to succeed

  • Most important success factor for IPSAS adoption: 61% political leadership, 21% IFMIS, 18% skilled staff, 0% dedicated staff

The Transparency Portal of Brazil

Mário Vinícius Claussen Spinelli, Secretary of Corruption Prevention and Strategic Information, Brazilian Office of the Comptroller General described the “Transparency Portal” in Brazil, He began his presentation by describing the institutional framework and audit and anti-corruption mandate of the CGU unit. The CGU unit has been able to investigate and dismiss over 2,000 public servants changed with fraud and corruption.

Mr. Spinelli described the preventative actions taken by the CGU unit including:

  • Increased Transparency

  • Incentive to Social Control

  • Management Strengthening

  • Implementation of International Conventions

  • Improved Legal Framework

  • Studies and research on corruption

  • Education for Ethics and Citizenship
The CGU unit has developed on-line games that teach the advantage of ethics to children. Mr. Spinelli pointed out that transparency and "right to know" goes beyond publicity, because it involves the delivery of understandable information and public access to official documents.

Mr. Spinelli described the timeline for the creation of the Brazil Transparency Portal. Procurement and budget execution information is available on the portal. Companies found to have engaged in corrupt practices are listed on the portal. Brazil is now moving to support IFRS and IPSAS standards. Full information about public servants are provided on the portal. Full information on the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic games contracts and expenditures are provided.

Mr. Spinelli described how the transparency portal provides easy access without passwords and accessible information. He emphasized that the information and navigation needs to be simple.

The Brazil Transparency Portal has disclosed $4.4T in total amounts since 2005, with over 1 Billion in registered payments with almost 250,000 monthly accesses and over 30,000 paid subscribers to push services.

The Brazil Transparency Portal has won numerous international awards. It takes approximately 4 1/2 hours for daily document updates.

The Transparency Portal in Brazil is compliant with many international standards:

  • International Public Sector Accounting Standards

  • XBRL

  • IMF Good Practices on Fiscal Transparency Code

  • OECD Best Transparency Budget Practices

  • Open Government;

Mr. Spinelli described the Three Laws of Open Government Data

  1. If it can’t be spidered or indexed, it doesn’t exist

  2. If it isn’t available in open and machine readable format, it can’t

  3. If a legal framework doesn’t allow it to be repurposed, it doesn’t empower
Surveys at the conference agreed with Mr. Spinelli

  • 95% agree that transparency required for social participation and preventing transparency

  • 67% agree that citizens have interest in social control and transparency

  • 86% agree that citizens can be encouraged to participate in social control transparency

  • 74% agree that Transparency portal best way for public sector transparency

According to the web site:

“The Transparency Portal was created in November 2004 for the purpose of making it possible for public managers and citizens at large to follow up on the financial execution of all programs and actions of the Federal Government more easily. The information available in it includes: funds transferred by the Federal Government to states, municipalities and the Federal District; funds directly transferred to citizens; direct spending of the Federal Government with procurement or contracts for projects and services, including the spending of each agency with per diems, office supplies, equipment, projects and services; as well as spending through Payment Cards of the Federal Government.

The Portal shows all data on the SIAFI's (Federal Government Integrated System for Financial Management) financial execution, as well as data provided by the National Health Fund, by Caixa Econômica Federal ( Brazil 's federal savings bank), by the National Treasury Secretariat and by Banco do Brasil . Apart from publishing all these data and information, the Transparency Portal makes a communication channel available: the Talk to Us link. Through this channel, users of the Portal can clear any doubts regarding accessibility or its contents, as well as post congratulations or suggestions.”

Cooperation on Audit Standards, Internal Auditors and Supreme Audit Insitutions

Beryl Davis, Director, Standards and Guidance, Institute of Internal Auditors and Bonnie Derby, Senior Auditor of the GAO discussed cooperation on audit standards between internal auditors and supreme audit institutions at the ICGFM Winter Conference. The presentation described INTOSAI GOV 9150 Coordination and Cooperation between SAIs and Internal Auditors in the Public Sector paper.

Ms. Derby introduced the four cornerstones of good governance: public officials; the governing body; internal auditors; and external auditors (SAIs). She concluded that the relationship between internal auditors and SAIs is both critical and beneficial to good governance and the effective use of public resources.

Ms. Derby described the evolution of audit standards, and the roles and responsibilities for internal audit and supreme audit institutions.

According to INTOSAI GOV 9100 (Guidelines for Internal Control Standards for the Public Sector), internal auditors examine and contribute to the ongoing effectiveness and efficiency of the internal control structure through their evaluations and recommendations and therefore play a significant role in effective internal control. Management often establishes an internal audit function as part of its internal control framework. In this tradition, the role of internal auditors is a critical part of an organization's internal control structure.

Ms. Derby introduced the benefits of coordination including:

  • Strengthen mutual accountability

  • Improved risk management

  • More efficient audits

Risks of cooperation on audit standards include:

  • Compromise on confidentiality

  • Possible conflict of interest

  • Use of different professional standards

Ms. Davis advocates the convergence of audit standards. She described the coordination and cooperation on these standards including:

  • Communication of audit planning and audit strategy

  • Collaborating on certain audit procedures, such as collecting audit evidence or testing data

  • Communication of audit reports to each other

Ms. Davis suggested that internal and external auditors could use certain aspects of each other’s work to determine the nature, timing, and extent of audit procedures to be performed. She surveyed the audience to determine that there was not significant coordination between internal and external audit in most countries:

  • 24% use each others work, 69% do not

  • 18% share training programs 64% do not

  • 34% share reports , 52% do not

  • 37% work together on strategy, 41% do not

Ms. Davis advocated cooperation between internal and external audit throughout the entire audit lifecycle. She emphasized that assessment and communication should be documented in respective audit documents.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Convergence of Public Sector Audit Standards

Jeanette Franzel, Managing Director, Financial Management and Assurance GAO was the moderator for the panel. The session started with an overview by Kelly Anerud, Senior Technical Manager, The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC).

Ms. Anerud described how International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) worked with the International Standards of Auditing with the International Auditing and Assurance Board (IAASB). She described how the "clarity" project enabled the convergence of public sector audit standards. She showed the INTOSAI and IFAC structure for developing standards and how these standards were rationalized.

Mr. Anerud described the differences between private and public sector audit including:

  • Terminology differences

  • Broader role of government audit, especially in performance

  • Inability for the government auditor to "withdrawal"

  • Need for confidentiality in private sector audit vs. transparency in public sector

  • Differences in materiality in government and what public expects to see reported

Jan Van Schalkwyk, Acting Corporate Executive from Auditor-General of South Africa described lessons learned. He described how audit is critical to democracy. Mr. Van Schalkwyk described the adoption audit standards by the Government of South Africa. Adoption of any standards in government requires legal standing and legal reform. He described challenges and lessons learned in adopting the INTOSAI standards. Mr. Van Schalkwyk pointed out that audit is critical to improving the lives of citizens.

Gail Flister Vallieres, Assistant Director, Financial Management and Assurance GAO described the move from the US "yellow book" standard to INTOSAI and international audit standards. Ms. Vallieres described how GAO could not immediately move to INTOSAI standard. Instead, GAO is sequencing a convergence to the standard. This process was facilitated when the AICPA US private sector auditing converged with ISA. She showed how the audit standards consist of basic accounting principles with standards specific to the public sector.

The exposure draft of the yellow book is available at the GAO web site.