Keep pushing on accounts transparency

11 Nov 14
Ian Ball

CIPFA International’s chair on his take-away message for delegates to the World Congress of Accountants

The main message I want accountants and accounting bodies to take away from WCOA is to keep pushing for transparency in accounting information. They need to be confident that the move to accruals accounting is completely doable. Other countries have done it and they should be confident of the possibility of doing so.

To be blunt, the main problem with adopting transparent accounting in developed countries is political will. Politicians and public servants may not want the whole picture seen.

Even if voters are not directly engaged with accountancy issues, professional accountancy organisations can speak out on this. It is important to get across that it is not a technical issue, it is about transparency and better economic management.

The effects of poor financial management on citizens can be dramatic, as we have seen in Greece. You see loss of democratic control over the budget and that then causes serious socio-economic issues.

But the experience of other countries, for example New Zealand, shows that financial control can be dramatically improved.

Accruals accounting is now accepted there, and you do not get anyone disputing it or calling for a return to cash accounting. The perception in New Zealand is that a government cannot run properly without it.

Ian Ball is chair of CIPFA International

This article appears in the Winter 2014 issue of Public Finance International magazine

  • Ian Ball
    Ian Ball

    Professor of Public Financial Management at Victoria University of Wellington and emeritus chair of CIPFA International

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