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This week, officials from finance ministries and leaders of the accounting profession from across Francophone Africa will gather in Dakar, Senegal from Oct 28 to 30 to chart a path forward in their countries’ development. They will focus on an area that is often ignored, but is vital to national success and prosperity: public financial management. They will focus on financial reporting, which is also known as “the way governments keep track of your money.”
This topic is important to you, citizens of the world, of the African continent. How governments manage their taxes, their borrowing, their spending, and the ways they account for these forms of transactions – income, borrowing and expenditure – are essential to economic growth, to poverty-reduction, and to ensuring that the region’s poorest can improve their lives.
In many parts of Francophone Africa, accounting practices have a lot of room to improve. In particular, financial reporting and auditing need reforms, according to ongoing research by the World Bank and others. Policy-makers do not always have accurate information about the money available to provide vital and quality public services, such as school-teachers or the construction of health clinics or roads.
They also don’t always know how such funds are used. In fact, a number of governments don’t know for certain what their assets and liabilities are – they only record cash transactions. Governments with poor accounting practices are unable to make fully informed decisions about the allocation and use of scarce resources.It’s hard for them to adequately plan for future needs and resources. This also means that citizens, in turn, do not have a way of knowing how their tax money is being used.
This group that will gather in Dakar – policy makers and auditors hailing from Cote d’Ivoire to Chad, from Tunisia to the Democratic Republic of Congo – are just the people who can design and execute transformative reforms. They are perfectly positioned to take stock of their systems’ strengths and weaknesses. They know the context; they can identify the binding constraints to important changes in policy and practice. They are leaders; they have the energy and resources to move forward in productive directions.
And they have a lot of support in this endeavor, which is being organized by many partners in collaboration with the World Bank: the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Pan-African Federation of Accountants (PAFA), the Féderation Internationale Des Experts-comptables Francophones (FIDEF). Several regional institutions are also involved, including, the Communauté Economique et Monetaire de l’Afrique Centrale (CEMAC), the Organisation pour l’Harmonisation du droit des Affaires en Afrique (OHADA) and the Union Economique et Monetaire Ouest- Africaine (UEMOA).
The public sector participants will also get some perspective from the private sector: accounting experts from IFAC will speak on current best practices in the field and help public sector leaders brainstorm ways to incorporate those practices into government systems. They will discuss how a strong accounting profession that covers both the public and private sectors can support government and contribute to economic and social development.
Practitioners will share experiences and discuss practical reforms that could strengthen public sector financial reporting and auditing. They will hear from civil society advocates and development partners and explore the role of citizens and development partners in making improvements to financial transparency.
At the end of the conference, the Ministers of Finance will issue a call to action. They will identify well-considered, pragmatic reforms that are a priority for the region. And they will exhort their neighbors to join them in executing them. We are hopeful that there will be a commitment to accelerate reforms that would improve the level of service delivery and transparency in the region.
Please join me in wishing this group a successful and productive event. And stay tuned for the messages that come out of the summit: , have the borrowing capacity to open a health clinic, or simply improve the transparency of the public budget so that you know how your taxes are being spent.