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Credible Public Financial Reporting for Building Investors’ Confidence and Economic Growth

Colombo, November 3, 2016: Over 200 delegates from across South Asia have convened in Colombo to discuss the importance of high quality financial reports in the public sector during a two day regional seminar on ‘Enhancing Public Financial reporting to Promote Growth in South Asia.’

The inauguration ceremony was held under the patronage of Finance Minister Mr. Ravi Karunanayake, while Dr. R H S Samaratunga, Secretary to the Treasury and the Ministry of Finance and Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy, Governor of the Central Bank were the guests of honour. World Bank Country Director Ms. Idah Z. Pswarayl-Riddihough and ADB Country Director Ms. Sri Widowati were also present during the inauguration ceremony.

“High quality and robust public financial reporting systems are essential to improve transparency and accountability in the public sector,” said Samia Msadek, Director of the World Bank’s Governance Global Practice. “Policy makers need to make informed strategic decisions on how best to allocate scarce public resources, to create the necessary fiscal space for development, and to create an investment climate that will boost jobs and economic growth. The sovereign debt crisis has also increased the legislature and public pressure for more transparency in the public sector through robust and comprehensive financial reports.”

Recognizing the importance of high quality public financial reporting, the South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA) which represents over 350,000 professional accountants in the SAARC region conceived a regional seminar series on Enhancing Public Financial Reporting to Promote Growth in South Asia. The first edition of the series opened today in Colombo and continues throughout November 4 with technical sessions presenting the perspectives of four important stakeholder groups: users of public financial reports, professional accountancy organizations, preparers of public financial reports, and external auditors. The theme of the first edition is implementation of international public sector accounting standards (IPSAS) and the path to accrual accounting.

SAFA President Naeem Akhtar Sheikh said “we are pleased to present at this seminar the findings of a research study jointly conducted by the World Bank and the SAFA Committee on Governmental and Public Sector Enterprises Accounting comparing public financial reporting practices in the region to international standards. We look forward to fruitful discussions over the next two days with public policy makers, government accountants and supreme audit institutions on how together we may take public financial reporting in South Asia to the next level.”

The seminar, hosted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CA Sri Lanka) and supported by the Asian Development Bank and The World Bank Group, has been strongly endorsed by the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). IFAC President Olivia F. Kirtley, who knows the region well and was in Colombo last year, commented: “I congratulate SAFA, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka, and our international development bank partners, for convening this event. Transparent, accountable, high-quality information is the bedrock of world-class public financial management. It is essential to delivering better, more sustainable, public services for citizens in the world’s fastest growing region. In the public interest, IFAC - and the professional accountancy organizations we represent globally – are committed to supporting IPSAS implementation around the world. It is a major reform that will yield dividends for citizens over many years.”

CA Sri Lanka President Lasantha Wickremasinghe said that an effective public financial management system will not only promote growth in a country, but the growth momentum will also reflect across the South Asian region. “While we understand that the public sector directly falls under the purview of the Government, it is not only the responsibility of a government to help develop this vital sector. As professional organisations, we too have a responsibility to help enhance the public finance management in our respective countries. If financial management is effective, it no doubt will lead to enhanced economic development in our countries as well as in our region. Therefore, each and every one of us have an important role to play to ensure this sector becomes more effective,” he said.

President of CA Sri Lanka’s Public Sector Wing (Association of Public Finance Accountants of Sri Lanka (APFASL) V. Kanagasabapathy said that the Association has taken the lead to strengthen the public financial management practices in Sri Lanka by introducing important initiatives aimed at enhancing transparency, accountability and good governance in the public sector. “The initiatives include the launch of the exclusive Chartered Public Finance Accountancy (CPFA) qualification which was jointly developed with CIPFA London, the implementation of public sector accounting standards, launching of the Best Annual Reports and Accounts Awards competition, and conducting capacity building programmes for public sector accounting and finance professionals,” he said.

The two day event which will conclude on 04th November 2016 brings together policy makers, regulators, professional accountancy organisations, think tanks, preparers and users of financial statements, public auditors, academia and other relevant stakeholders from across South Asia to stimulate thinking on how the region can move financial reporting practices to the next level, while focusing on International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) and the path to accrual accounting.