Public sector financial reporting is key for sustainable developmet agenda

04 November 2015

As part of the 32nd session of Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting (ISAR), UNCTAD held a workshop on the practical implementation of International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on 3 November.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by United Nations member States in September 2015, require efficient mobilization and management of vast financial resources for which an improvement in governance, transparency and accountability at all levels is critically important.

During the workshop, experts from around the world – including representatives of the, International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board (IPSAS standard setter), the Charted Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), and national bodies from various countries – highlighted the important role that IPSAS play for sustainable development and discussed good practices and lessons learned in their practical implementation.

UNCTAD's Head of the Enterprise Branch Tatiana Krylova, in introductory remarks, said that IPSAS can play a very important role in strengthening the robustness of public sector accounting and reporting, improving its consistency and comparability.

Keynote speaker, CIPFA Chairman Ian Ball, who initiated the development of IPSAS in 1995 in his former capacity as Chairman of IFAC Public Sector Committee, said: "IPSAS does a lot more than produce annual reports on the accrual basis. The reason to introduce IPSAS is also to have better financial management within the governments and better fiscal policy decision making."

IFAC Chief Operating Officer Alta Prinsolo added: "High-quality, decision-useful, easy-to-access, accrual-based financial information is the cornerstone of sound public finance management."

The one-day technical workshop featured two main panel discussions. The morning panel discussed the current status of IPSAS standard-setting process and its governance system, progress on implementation, and capacity-building needs. The afternoon panel focused on IPSAS technical aspects, good practices and lessons learned in the implementation process.

The ISAR workshop on IPSAS was attended by about 80 leading international experts on accounting and reporting and concluded that sound reporting in public sector is critical to financial stability and sustainable development.

For more than 30 years, ISAR has been the focal point within the UN system for issues of corporate transparency and accounting. ISAR has an integrated programme of research, intergovernmental dialogue, consensus building and technical cooperation. It addresses critical issues in the financial and non-financial reporting areas with a view to support developing countries and economies in transition in their efforts to strengthen their accounting infrastructures, comply with international requirements and thus improve transparency, promote financial stability and attract investment.