Whistleblowing laws and policies must be promoted by finance professionals working in the public sector around the world, to ensure that communities can have full confidence in how their taxes are being spent, according to a new report by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.
Finance professionals have a critical role to play in building public trust by championing the cause of developing anti-corruption procedures and cultures, says ACCA’s report "Setting High Professional Standards for Public Services Around the World" which has been updated for 2013.
Along with working with other stakeholders to help eradicate fraud and corruption cultures in the public sector, through education, fraud- awareness programmes and training in forensic accounting the report says: "We believe that a single action that finance professionals can take is to promote the importance and adoption of whistleblowing legislation and policies with governments around the world."
According to Gillian Fawcett, ACCA’s head of public sector, it is critical that finance professionals feel able to speak out about genuine concerns that fraud behaviour or corrupt practices are taking place without fear of serious repercussions for them.
"It is vitally important that finance professionals feel empowered to highlight issues where public money raised through taxation is misspent or misused – and that those responsible can be held to account," says Fawcett.
The report also calls for proper separation between the accounting and auditing functions within all governments. In some countries that does not exist, which impairs accountability and transparency, since the auditors who check the reports prepared by the accountants should be separate and independent.
"A proper scrutiny of accounts by an independent and strong audit function is critical if the public is to be re-assured that money is being spent wisely and that the organisation represents value for money. There is also a challenge in educating the public about the audit process – and in making it more transparent – again to rebuild the confidence of the public where there is a belief that public funds are not being spent in the best possible way, particularly at a time when greater demands than ever are being placed on the public sector," notes Fawcett.