There is sometimes a mismatch between the skills businesses and the public sector require, and those that accounting professionals are able to offer. Several suggestions were discussed for addressing the skills gap, including the development of qualification frameworks, strengthening regional organizations, and the professionalization of accounting technicians, an approach being taken in New Zealand and South Africa.
The range of information technology options for accountants is vast and rich. However, the array of options can be confusing, expensive and even threatening. Professional Accounting Organizations (PAOs) have been instrumental in assisting members in navigating IT options for adapting their practices, increasing the value of their services, and gaining efficiency. One area in which PAOs have added significant value is in using their bargaining power to work with IT companies to develop and adapt software to the needs of their members, particularly small accounting firms. Some smaller PAOs have partnered to achieve even greater economies of scale, such as in Latvia and Estonia. Taking full advantage of the opportunities IT offers for education and training will be vital going forward. In this regard, the World Bank has pioneered the development of educational software; for example software is being developed to teach International Standards on Auditing (ISA) through simulated audits, and will be piloted in Poland beginning in 2015.
According to Warren Allen, IFAC President, “public sector financial management reform is the ultimate public interest issue for the accountancy profession.” Citing examples of recent global civil unrest he said “the public, and particularly the younger generation, have had enough of the inappropriate way in which many public sector entities are run.” Modernizing public financial management (PFM) is essential to achieving the World Bank’s twin goals of eradicating extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity, and accountants play a vital role in this process.
Overall, Accountancy: Framing the Future, was an opportunity for the World Bank to receive valuable feedback from the profession in our partner countries. World Bank is committed to move forward with the ideas discussed in Rome aimed at supporting capacity development, and continuing to share and transfer knowledge globally, particularly with regard to:
- Facilitating engagement among partner countries, including through technical assistance and peer exchange, in order to build and enhance sustainable systems of quality assurance for the audit profession.
- Strengthening the professional skills of accounting practitioners at all levels.
- Driving reform: while regulation has had a significant role in the profession’s evolution, advances in technology should be explored and disseminated.
- Developing practical tools to support PAOs: the ongoing development and broad availability of relevant software is essential, and can serve as an equalizer among firms and countries.
- Promoting information that is clear and simple in government financial reports: while transparency is essential, citizens must also be able to understand and derive meaningful information from these reports.