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'Towards implementing European Public Sector Accounting Standards'

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07 Jun 2013

On 29-30 May 2013 a conference bringing together high-level stakeholders and decision makers from public sector accounting, auditing and statistics was held in Brussels to discuss the future development of harmonised government accounting standards in Europe. Participants discussed the development and implementation of European Public Sector Accounting Standards (EPSAS) as a means of enabling economic governance in the context of the current economic situation based on transparent and comparable accruals accounting data.

The conference followed a report assessing the suitability of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) for the Member States of the EU that was published in March 2013 and used information from the feedback received on the public consultation on the suitability of  IPSAS for application in the EU.

Overall, two conclusions were drawn in the report: (1) it seemed that IPSAS cannot easily be implemented in EU Member States as it stands currently and (2) the IPSAS standards represent a suitable framework for the future development of EPSAS.

The Brussel discussions of the findings and proposals of the report were structured into four sessions:

  • Session 1 'The political context – sovereign debt crisis, economic governance, transparency and trust in fiscal data' discussed the current economic and political context and the joint efforts that are needed to move forward and to reinstall the transparency and trust on fiscal data of the European Union as a whole and of each particular Member State in particular.
  • In Session 2 'Fiscal transparency and public accounting' technical and academic interventions highlighted the need for having strong and reliable harmonised accruals accounting systems providing improved international acceptance and legitimacy.
  • Session 3 -'Suitability of IPSAS and national experiences of reforms' saw interventions and sharing of views of experts from national administrations on reform experiences and successful implementation of accruals accounting in the public sector.
  • Session 4 'Accounting standards, governance, the way forward' was a roundtable on lessons learnt, best practices and suggestions concerning accounting standards, future governance for harmonised European public sector accounting standards and the next steps to be taken, including the development of a road map.
    The discussions in session four were based on two core proposals by the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat): (1) The "two-legs" principle with strong EU governance, independent from the IPSASB, and the IPSAS as the starting point, but non-binding, for EPSAS and (2) a governance structure in the form of an organisation inspired by the EU legislative process, a core body composed of one representative from each member state, and two expert working groups (one on standards, one on interpretation).

The conference website offers a wealth of information around the conference and the opinions voiced, including speaker biographies, abstracts, full texts of speeches, videos of speeches, presentation slides, and background papers. Please click for access to the conference website (link to European Commission website).

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