Saturday, 7 May 2016

Government Financial Reporting - Good Practices from sub-Saharan Africa

This study attempts to codify good practices in financial reporting by sub-Saharan African governments. The study identifies, analyses and documents existing good practices from annual financial reports by central governments in sub-Saharan Africa. As such it provides a guide to governments wishing to improve the quality of their annual financial statements based on the approaches adopted by their peers.

The financial statements of a dozen governments of sub-Saharan Africa were reviewed to identify examples of good practice which were then analysed against the four broad indicative criteria which were developed for the study. Visits were made to Burkina Faso, Namibia and Tanzania to obtain further information and to discuss the needs of the key uses of government financial information.

Andy Wynne, School of Management,
University of Leicester
E-mail: amw48@leicester.ac.uk

Fred MearLeicester Business School,
de Montfort University
E-mail: fcmacc@dmu.ac.uk

This information should be used to refine international standards. Specifically, the results of this standard could be used to amend the Cash Basis IPSAS which is currently being subject to public consultation, see:
www.ifac.org/news-events/2016-02/ipsasb-publishes-exposure-draft-61-proposing-revisions-cash-basis-ipsas

- comments are required by 31 July 2016

To download the full study go to:

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Paris Climate Change Deal – a view from Nigeria

Most governments in the world signed up to the Paris agreement on climate change in mid-December 2015.  This claimed to have the goal of keeping global temperature rises well below two degrees centigrade and even to “pursue efforts” to keep them below 1.5°C.  In reality, the national plans will result in increases of around three degrees by the end of this century – a disaster for millions of poor people across the world. 

There have been huge demonstrations in many cities, but up against the power of the oil companies, the car companies and other entrenched interests it will take a lot more to reduce the effects of climate change.

Aviation and shipping will not face any restrictions and the plans put forward by each government will not have to be implemented for another five years.  But even then, no government that fails to act on its plans will be punished.  As the Financial Times, the paper of the bosses in London, pointed out:

Average global temperatures have already risen by nearly 1°C since the industrial revolution and limiting warming to 1.5°C would require another revolution.

By the time the “nationally determined contributions” are to be implemented in 2020, there will have been three decades of climate change negotiations.  But over this period, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased and even the emissions per head will have continued to grow.  The Financial Times accepts that the “task is now far bigger than it would have been if action could have been taken sooner”. 

No wonder that the reaction of many in the fossil fuel industry is that they are still not threatened.  However, this will change if the pressure can be kept up as the realities of climate change and its effects becomes clearer and clearer. Campaigners have already translated the the 2°C target into a string of demands highlighting the amount of coal, gas and oil that will be required to stay in the ground.

To make the Paris climate agreement meaningful, the world now desperately needs a clear plan for 100% renewables by 2050. This will require action to keep fossil fuels in the ground from this date on – with major implications for oil exporting countries like Nigeria.  The annual fund of $100billion, originally promised in 2009, now promised from 2020, will not go far across the whole of the Global South where the poor will continue to suffer the brunt of global warming.

A recent survey found that 65% of Nigerians are already very concerned about the threat of climate change.  This is not surprising when the North faces severe droughts, Lake Chad is only 5 per cent the size it was in the 1960s and the Niger Delta could lose over 15,000 square kilometres of land to the sea by the year 2100 - resulting in 80% of the population being displaced.

Despite these horrors, the plans submitted to the Paris conference by the Buhari government only included an undertaking to “work towards ending gas flaring by 2030”.  This activity makes the largest contribution to global warming in sub-Saharan Africa, has been generally illegal in Nigeria since 1984, was to be stopped again from 2008, but the former government actually stopped imposing fines for gas flaring in December 2014.

An other major move in the fight against global warming would be for the majority of women, who still depend on the traditional ‘three-stone fire’, to be able to use kerosene.  This would be of immediate health benefit to millions of women and contribute to reduced global warming by reducing the use of trees as fuel. However, the government is still talking about stopping fuel subsidies in 2016.

Buhari was elected on the promise of change.  But as far as climate change is concerned it appears to be business as usual. 


The road forward will not be easy,” says Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary of Public Services International.  “The national commitments tabled so far are not enough; we need to do more, now.  Workers and trade unions will have to accept their responsibilities, to be active in the workplace, both for reducing carbon emissions and to prepare for the inevitable climate extremes.  We will also need to work in our communities to create the political pressure needed to counter the neoliberal assault on everything public, as we know that without public investment, no transition will be possible.”

Saturday, 31 October 2015

How should we measure success in the public sector?

Recent public sector reforms have been dominated by New Public Management.  This often puts an emphasis on performance management -  but usually limits discussions to narrow financial grounds.   Performance is said to encompass economy, efficiency and effectiveness, with, if we are lucky, equity, added as a fourth ‘e’.   But it is economy or cheapness which is the easy one to measure, and so, as the saying goes, what gets measured gets done.

If we are to measure performance, then we need to extend the remit to provide an assessment of the acknowledged universal goals of equity and accountability.  However, there is no one blueprint for success. The criteria in the table below are therefore provided as a relatively fluid reference point for research and not a fixed anchor. 

Criteria used to evaluate public sector success:

Equity
Is the availability of the surface equitable for different social groups?
Is the quality and quantity of the service equitable?
Are prices equitable? [Is charging for a human right ethical?]
Is equity formalised, legalised or institutionalised in some way?
Participation in decision-making
Is the depth and scope of participation adequate?
Is participation equitable?
Is participation formalised, legalised or institutionalised in some way?
Is the model of participation sustainable?
Efficiency
Is the service delivered in financially efficient manner?
Are adequate investments being made in long-term maintenance?
Do efficiency gains undermine other potentially positive outcomes? Deal efficiency gains take into account other services and/or levels of government?
Quality of service
Is the overall quality of the service good?
Is quality improving?
Accountability
Are service providers accountable to end users?
Is accountability formalised, legalised or institutionalised in some way?
Transparency
Does the public understand the operating mandates of the service provider?
Are decisions about service delivery regularly communicated to the public?
Is transparency formalised, legalised or institutionalised in some way?
Quality of the workplace
Do frontline workers participate in policy making for the service?
Are workers paid a fair salary and benefits?
Are there adequate numbers of workers to ensure quality, safety and sustainability?
Are they good relations between frontline workers, managers and end users of the service?
Is there an equity among workers?
Sustainability
re there sufficient financial resources available to ensure successful continuity of the service?
Is there sufficient political support at different levels of government?
Is the service using natural resources in a sustainable way?
Solidarity
Does the service help to build solidarity between workers, community, bureaucrats, politicians, NGOs and end users?
Does this service helped to build solidarity between different service sectors (e.g. with public health officials)?
Does the service help to build solidarity with other levels of state?
Public ethos
Does the model helped to create/build a stronger public ethos around service delivery?
Does the model promote thinking and dialogue about concept of public ownership and control?
Does the service model explicitly oppose privatisation and commercialisation?
Transfer ability
Is the model transferable to other places (in whole or in part)?


Taken from page 126/127 of:
David A McDonald “Defend, Militate and Alternate: Public Options in a Privatised World” in
Pradella, Lucia and Marois, Thomas (eds) (2015) Polarising Development: alternatives to Neoliberalism and the crisis, London: Pluto Press


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Cash Basis IPSAS now being revised

At its meeting, earlier in September, the IPSAS Board agreed to greatly simplify the Cash Basis IPSAS.  The requirements for consolidation, third party payments and aid are to be made advisory, rather than mandatory (as is the case at present).  

An exposure draft (ED) is to be developed and presented at the next meeting of the IPSAS Board in December.  It is then hoped that a revised Cash Basis IPSAS can be agreed at its later meeting in March 2016.


More details of the proposed changes are available from:  http://www.ipsasb.org/system/files/meetings/files/Agenda_item_2_combined-v1.pdf

These changes will be welcomed by all who want to see greater openness and accountability.  It is a significant problem that over 12 years after it was first issued the Cash Basis IPSAS has yet to be properly implemented by a single government.  This is because the Standard does not reflect existing good practice - not a single government in the world, for example, actually issues fully consolidated financial statements.  So more work and research is needed to identify good practices which can then be codified by further amendments to the Standard.

However, the move to accrual accounting still provides an expensive and unrealistic goal.  All the objective and authoritative research shows that this is costly and does not actually deliver the expected benefits, see:  http://www.icgfm.org/journal/2012/no1/chapter5.pdf              
Thus the Cash Basis IPSAS should not be seen as a first step towards accrual accounting, the cash basis is an end in itself and is still used by at least 90% of governments in the world and most of those responsible for the top 20 economies.