PFM reform success needs politicians to keep interest, says panel

24 Sep 18

Political drive is essential for public financial management reforms to be successful, a panel discussing transforming PFM at CIPFA’s international conference agreed.



transforming PFM

The ‘transforming PFM’ session at the CIPFA international conference in Abu Dhabi, 2018 (from left to right: Jens Kronmann Kristensen, Assietou Sylla Diouf, Andrew Burns and Lewis Hawkes)


Although, keeping up momentum when governments change can be hard, the speakers at the session in Abu Dhabi said yesterday.  

“All of us can have beautiful technical ideas and reform plans but there is need for political drive because it provides funding and it provides the leadership - to an extent some things cannot be done without some top-level drive,” Jens Kromann Kristensen, head of an organisation providing a methodology for assessing PFM performance, Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability, told delegates.

Assietou Sylla Diouf, director of programming, budgeting, finance and accounting at the African Union – a union of all 55 countries on the continent of Africa - said that political will and financing is essential for a full five to ten years for reforms to “embed into day-to-day life” and be fully successful.

But Lewis Hawke, lead public sector specialist at the World Bank, said that government leadership seems to be “changing every five minutes”, which makes it harder to retain that political will, which is “fundamental” to successful reform.

“Sometimes there is a change of government and the whole thing is not relevant anymore,” Kromann Kristensen told the conference.

The PEFA head also said the world was much “much too messy” for systematic approaches to reform, referring to the conflicting priorities between governments, advisers and consultants.

“Being aware of the messy nature of human beings teaches us that ongoing feedback, and being flexible and agile is very important in regards to implementing PFM reforms,” Kromann Kristensen advised.

He gave an example: “Political leaders legitimately are there to have preferences, so although it may be annoying if accrual accounting is not a priority, it can be their decision.”

Hawke added that as the political environment and priorities keep changing, it is important that public finance professionals “don’t take their eye of the ball” as the reforms have to continue.

He said that public financial leaders need to be “flexible” and “opportunistic” to ensure effective PFM stayed on the agenda. The other panellists agreed.


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