By Gillian Fawcett, head of public sector, ACCA
Judging by our International Public Sector Conference yesterday, finance professionals working in the public sector face a 'perfect storm' of challenges as they seek to develop a sustainable, transparent, and accountable approach to the 21st century.
Achieving fiscal, environmental, or social sustainability will be a key priority for the public sector; it won't be easy to balance each challenge's competing demands. Both politicians and the accountancy profession need to take a long-term view on these issues to ensure public services are sustainable for the future, which meet both present day needs as well as those for future generations. Finance professionals will have a vital role to play in finding this balance. New skills will need to be developed for reporting on sustainability and well-being, and accountants are well-placed to rise to the challenge.
Also, in my view good governance is at the heart of public services. Strong leadership, openness and accountability will be vital for success. Doing things behind closed doors makes it hard for people to appreciate why changes are being made to the services they rely on. As power shifts from the centre to local public services, it will be critical that governance and accountability is strengthened if the public are to continue to have confidence in public services.
As a final point, there is little doubt that governments are stuck between a 'rock and a hard place' when it comes to public service reform. They face the dilemma of rising public expectations with people wanting more individually tailored services, but at the same time not wanting to pay higher taxes. The challenge going forward in a period of significant financial retrenchment is for governments not to lose sight of achieving effective outcomes at the expense of achieving short-term efficiency savings.
Ed: You can watch the conference online at www.acca-conferences.com for £34.99, where you can also view short interviews with the speakers for free too.