FINANCE Secretary Dr Ken Ngangan discusses the establishment of the PNG Association of Government Accountants and Public Finance Managers. He is the initiator of the association and is its founding president.
It is, as the name suggests, a professional body established to draw membership and participation from accounting and finance professionals in the public sector and to be their voice on matters of professional concern and welfare. It is an initiative undertaken by the Department of Finance, as custodian of the Public Finances (Management) Act, to ensure that financial accounting and reporting standards are set and achieved for efficient delivery of Government goods and services. The Government is the single biggest employer of accounting and finance professionals. It is therefore only proper and logical that this professional body is set up to be the mouthpiece and avenue to develop the profession in the public sector. The eight main objectives and purpose are to:
It complements rather than compete with CPAPNG and other sister professional bodies. Our members can also be members of these and bodies, as long as they qualify to become members. The only difference is that the PNGAGA and PFM is set up to cater for the professional welfare and development of those professionals in the public sector whose job is about being members of the team that manages and accounts for public monies. Members of CPAPNG are drawn generally from both the private and public sectors. We want to work with our sister bodies because as members of the same profession, there are common and cross-cutting issues which we can work together on and share ideas, key among them is professional development and raising and maintaining a high standard of practice and conduct. The contribution of CPAPNG in this respect over the past years has been immense and deserves high commendation.
As alluded to in the introduction, the establishment of the PNGAGA and PFM has been long overdue because one of its responsibilities is to develop the highest possible and internationally recognised standard of accounting and financial management in the government and public sector. This continues to be an area of concern and challenge to date. Without being too negative, I must say that the standard of accounting and financial managementhas been left wanting for too long. Many audits and financial reports, year in year out, especially those by the Auditor- General, have continued to point out and paint a disheartening picture. The most recent one was tabled in Parliament recently. It points to a very poor and highly unsatisfactory level of financial management, accounting and reporting across almost all departments, agencies and State-owned enterprises. With increased funding now being channelled down to the provinces and districts we simply cannot allow this poor state of affairs and decline in standards to continue if we are serious about getting results for the Government’s investment in public service delivery. Reforms now being undertaken in public sector financial management necessitates development and capacity building of our accounting and financial management workforce.
Yes, so long as they meet the membership requirements of those bodies.
As founding president, of course I expect as much interest and as many members as possible because at the end of the day, one way or another, our accountants and finance managers will be affected by the existence, decisions and business of the Association. It is a new and positive development for us and I would encourage all my colleagues to become members of the association. I would even go to the extent of stating that the Association has been set up to serve their interest and no professional in his right mind would not want to rush at the opportunity join up.
There is an ongoing demand for qualified, motivated and high-performing public sector accountants given our aspiration to develop the highest possible and internationally recognised standards of accounting and financial management in the government and public sector. We are seeing many new graduates from our universities and tertiary institutions enter the public sector with high ambition and expectations and this is a very good sign. We are encouraged by this and want to develop and environment conducive for them to progress and succeed professionally, so the establishment of the Association is a step in the right direction and one of the ways to attract and keep them.
Public sector conditions and remuneration are not unreasonable, with a 55 per cent increase in salaries for public service officers since 2010. Public sector accounting and financial management roles also provide a direct opportunity to contribute to critical national policies and objectives including meeting development needs across the country. There is financial reward as well as professional achievement and satisfaction in store for those who enter the public service.
A key initiative has been the establishment of an MOA between the Department of Finance and the University of PNG to support a two-year specialist tertiary degree, Bachelor of Public Finance and Accountancy. It is a landmark in building a better qualified and more professional cohort of public sector accountants and financial managers. The first batch of students were among those who graduated from UPNG early this year and the interest to join the program has been overwhelming.
With increased levels of funding being devolved to the provinces and districts to meet infrastructure and other development objectives, there will be a continuing and growing need for qualified and effective accounting and finance professionals in the public sector if objectives are to be realised. The Association can play a vital role in growing the number and quality of people with the skills required to meet this demand.
During my term at the helm of the Department of Finance, I would like to undertake more reforms as much as possible. These reforms will go towards strengthening the public financial management systems of government which will ensure effective delivery of government services. I would like to see a professionally natured workforce in the public sector who are held in high regard by the community. To that end, the Association will provide quality continuing education and networking opportunities to foster professional development and certification. To conclude, I am honoured to be the founding president and pay tribute to colleagues who have contributed to the establishment of the association. I am confident of its place and success in the development of our profession and that of the nation. I wish the Association and all its members the very best now and well into the future.