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Public sector finances: 'Better accountablity will create trust'

There is a need for greater accountability and transparency in public sector finances, it has been claimed.

Anthony Harbinson of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) said there was "a critical need to build financial capacity and expertise in the public sector to ensure openness, trust and accountability".

During a recent public sector conference in London, Mr Harbinson, who is ACCA's deputy president, told delegates government spending on public services accounted for more than one-third of GDP in most countries.

"Governments all around the world, including our own Executive, are wrestling with a number of complex challenges such as ageing populations and rising healthcare costs, reform of welfare support, provision of quality education, the environment and climate change, defence costs, protection of natural resources, terrorism, crime and infrastructure costs.

"Strategic reviews of services need to take account of the changing world, whilst facing ongoing austerity measures," he said.

"This is at a time when expectations of public services are growing and long-lasting improvements are being sought in the accountability and transparency of public funds.

"There is a need for a change in attitude within the public sector, against a growing view that it is plagued by poor institutional fiscal management."

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He added that Finance Minister Simon Hamilton recently visited Denmark and Estonia to gain knowledge and expertise on best practice in the public sector.

Gillian Fawcett, head of public sector at ACCA praised the minister's approach as "refreshing".