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.
QUESTION: What is the
background to, and the reasoning behind the establishment of the PNG
Association of Government Accountants and Public Finance Managers?
NGANGAN: 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:
- Promote professional development and enhance the capacity of Public Sector Accountants through adherence to requirements of Public Sector Accounting Standards;
- educate and award qualifications to members and would-be members in the public sector generally, including those with government departments, government bodies and State-owned enterprises in the practice and application of public sector accounting and public sector accounting standards and guidelines;
- determine, define and set professional qualification schemes, training programmes and ethical conduct rules for PSAs to enhance their standing and status as accountants, public finance managers and professionals in their own right in the society;
- encourage the application of professional proficiency and promote the objects of government, public enterprises and public organisations through inputs and continuous development of financial regulations and practices;
- guard against and/or monitor occurrences of unprofessional or unethical conduct by members in discharging their respective duties and responsibilities to clients, employers and other stakeholders;
- promote the association, the professionalism, build capacity of members and sustain membership by increased public awareness through campaign, workshops, conference and forums;
- encourage and build alliances with other sector accounting bodies, auxillary professions and stakeholder globally; and,
- Be the focal point for all the interactions of the association.
QUESTION: Does this new body compete with or complement the work
of existing ones such as the CPAPNG and CMA?
NGANGAN: 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.
QUESTION: What is your
experience or observation in regard to the standard of accounting and financial
management practice in the public sector?
NGANGAN: 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.
QUESTION: Can members of
PNGAGA and PFM also be members of other professional bodies?
NGANGAN: Yes, so long as they meet the membership requirements of those bodies.
QUESTION: What level of interest do you expect for its members?
NGANGAN: 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.
QUESTION: What is the demand for job situation like in the public sector?
NGANGAN: 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.
QUESTION: Are the terms
and conditions of employment of accounting and finance professionals as
competitive/attractive as in the public sector?
NGANGAN: 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.
QUESTION: You would
obviously have already set in place training and capacity-building programs and
avenues to upskill public sector accounting and finance professionals. Please
NGANGAN: 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.
QUESTION: How do you
foresee the future of accounting and finance professionals in the public
sector, the PNGAGA and PFM and the standard of financial accounting and
reporting in the future?
NGANGAN: 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.
QUESTION: What legacy
would you, firstly as Secretary for Finance, and also as the initiator and
founding President of the Association want to leave behind for your colleagues
NGANGAN: 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.
FINANCE ACHIEVES MILESTONE WITH GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTS REPORTING
Published on Post-Courier last December 12, 2017
Team Finance of Vulupindi House at Waigani have achieved an unprecedented financial reporting milestone.
Team Finance, led by the Minister for Finance, James Marape, and includes Secretary for Finance Dr Ken Ngangan, were a happy lot last Tuesday when Public Accounts, for a record five years, were tabled and approved by the National Parliament. Public Accounts are detailed records of receipts, expenditures and debts of public bodies, statutory authorities, state agencies as well as provincial and local level governments. It will now, for the first time since Independence 40 years ago, fully bring up to date and up to speed the timely and accurate reporting and accountability aspects of government finances.
The Tuesday event in Parliament saw the tabling and endorsement of the 2010 to 2014 Public Accounts, while those for 2015 and 2016 have been completed and now with the Auditor General for audit and expressed audit opinion. They are expected to be tabled in the first session of Parliament in 2018. In so doing, Team Finance have fulfilled a major Constitutional obligation on their part, to report on and account for the public expenditure they also manage and oversee year after year. It will set the stage for a timely reporting system, this time for every succeeding budget year, a task that has not been successfully achieved for many years due to multiple impeding factors.
Success on the back of Finance Management Reforms.
This success story now comes on the back of effective reforms that are being undertaken at Finance. The Public Financial Management reforms that have been introduced over the past three years have very significant to strengthening efficiency, transparency and accountability in public sector accounting and budgeting. As with the updating of the Public Accounts, the reforms culminated in the amendment of the Public Finances (Management) Act with the new PFMA being presented and passed by Parliament in August 2016.
In respect to Public Accounts, successive National Governments have continuously been concerned about the significant delays in the preparation and presentation of annual Public Accounts. Major progress has now been made in addressing this concern, thus the result on Tuesday. The department has completed enhancement to the new accounting system, the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS), that has resulted in significant improvement in the time it takes to complete the Public Accounts. This, along with a concerted refocusing of resources and priorities, has seen the major turn-around. “I am proud to be part of a government that can point to this major record of achievement in terms of PFM reform, leaving a lasting legacy of greatly enhanced capacity to deliver in full on the government’s development objectives for our people,” Marape said when presenting a statement to Parliament in September regarding the reforms. He said the five years of Public Accounts Financial Reports reflected the tremendous amount of work being done by the government, through the Department of Finance, to bring the Public Accounts up to date. There has been tremendous amount of progress with the implementation and continued roll-out of the IFMS, which has now been completed for 40 government agencies and 4 statutory bodies. This has brought about an enormous improvement in the time taken to prepare the Public Accounts Constitutional Requirement and Process.
The Ministry and Department Finance are mandated to table the Public Accounts reports to Parliament annually under the Public Finance (Management) Act. Compilation of public accounts report is a constitutional requirement under Section 211 of the Constitution. Section 3 of the PFMA gives certain powers to the Department and Ministry of Finance, which includes:
– The fiscal implementation of the National Budget, including budget controls as may be authorised from time to time;
– Overseeing the finances of the state so as to ensure that a full accounting is made to Parliament of all transactions involving public and statutory bodies or public money and property;
– Providing directions and guidelines regarding the financial management of public money and property by public and statutory bodies;
– Reporting on the Public Accounts of PNG;
– Accounting to Parliament for the financial performance and management of public and statutory bodies;
– Establishing controls and rules related to State procurement;
– Declaring the timing of the start and end of the fiscal (financial) year; and
– Administering the PFMA unless otherwise specifically provided.
Every November of each fiscal year, Parliament approves and passes the
National Budget through an introduction of an Appropriation Bill. The
Public Finances (Management) Act supervises the accountability and the
drawdown of these expenditure of public funds. These expenditures are
subject to Parliament scrutiny and is therefore fully accounted and
reported to Parliament by the Department and the Ministry of Finance as
the responsible agency.
Each year, the Department of Finance, under law, prepares the annual Public Accounts of the National Government. This is a mammoth task for the Department as every transaction of receipts, expenditures and debts must be properly and fully taken into account and recorded accurately. In accordance with the requirements of the Constitution, the 2010 to 2014 Public Accounts have been audited by the Auditor General with expressed audit opinion with the same process to be completed for the 2015 and 2016 Public Accounts Financial Reports.
Causes of delays
While an annual Public Account is required to be tabled in the preceding fiscal year in Parliament, the Public Accounts in the last five to six-year period have been delayed due to the following reasons;
– Delays in submitting financial records (detailed statements of receipts and expenditure) by national departments and provincial governments to the Department of Finance on a timely basis;
– Quality of reports not satisfactory, prompting correction of errors by the Department of Finance, which delayed the timing of the preparedness of Public Accounts;
– Capacity constraints at agency level (sub-national and national departments) preventing the quality and timeliness of those reports to the Department of Finance; and
– Delays in the release of audit reports of Public Accounts by the Auditor General, causing delay in submitting of reports to Parliament.
At present there are three main financial and accounting systems being used by public bodies (national government departments and provincial and district).
i) PGAS (PNG Government Accounting System)
This is a cash-base accounting system used by state agencies, including national departments, provincial and local level governments that served that country well since 1988. PGAS is gradually being replaced by IFMS. Unlike IFMS, PGAS sites are a stand-alone system where accounting records and data are uploaded and exported onto CDs and flash drives and sent to the Department of Finance for reviews and examinations. It takes time for provinces to send in their data for uploading onto IFMS – some provinces do not send their data until well into December when all the expenditure is uploaded. This ultimately affects the timeliness of reports and the preparedness of the annual Public Account.
This new financial system has been introduced and is being used by up to 95 per cent of national government departments. It integrates both the budgeting and accounting modules in one system. It is an online system that has all agencies linked to headquarters. All warrants released, commitments made and payments done are all on real time. No more hassles of trying to get agencies to submit data via CDs and flash drives or even email. At present it has also been rolled out to Central and East New Britain provinces with plans to roll out to every province by 2018.
iii) Alesco System
This is a system in which all government personnel emoluments, salaries and wages are disbursed from. Currently, there are seven different pay groups, PNGpay, Educationpay, Customs, IRC, ABG and Village Courts being paid out of Alesco. These personnel emoluments expenditure are then imported into the main general ledgers in the IFMS. To date, this is the only system in which all personnel emoluments should be paid out of for all public servants. Alesco has also been implemented in all agencies, and recently to the provincial hospital authorities, so all inputs are done out there and only the final processing or pay run is done at headquarters.
Legalities of Reporting Entities
There is legal distinction between national government departments and provinces with respect to reporting on financial aspects of their operations. Provinces are described as reporting entities and have legal status under the Organic Law, while government departments, individually, do not have legal status and are not reporting entities and cannot prepare financial reports and statements under their own name. National departments are organs/instrumentalities of the central (State) system.
National departments must now become reporting entities and be prepared to provide detailed statements or receipts and expenditure, annual financial statements and other financial reports required under the PFMA. Legislative and administrative reforms can be introduced to recognise national government departments as reporting entities like provinces and statutory bodies.
Change proposed for Government’s Accounting and Financial Year Calendar
The current fiscal year for the National Government begins on January 1 and ends on December 31. While this accounting period has been fixed in law (Fiscal Act 1977) and has been a practice for the government accounting cycle, the government has foregone opportunities in terms of revenue collections into the Consolidated Revenue Fund to timely fund the Budget. Revenue collections through the first and last quarters of the fiscal year have not been effective due to government and private sector closing business for the end of year period. A separate policy submission and legislative reform for government’s fiscal/financial year calendar is imminent and that all key central agencies to come up with a workable financial year that will draw an effective timeline to effectively and timely execute the budget.
Published on PNG Today
SEC. NGANGAN TEAM JOIN IN CLEAN-UP
Published on POST-COURIER on May 30, 2016
SECRETARY for Finance Dr Ken Ngangan, his two deputies, and a group of his department officers braved the 30-plus degree heat on Friday to give a hand in cleaning Port Moresby for major international events. They walked from the department headquarters at Vulupindi House along Waigani Drive to the Morata-Tokarara-Gerehu junction collecting rubbish and bagging them to be dumped as part of a clean-up campaign by Port Moresby-based public servants.
Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari had instructed for this to happen to present a neat appearance of the Nation’s Capital which will be hosting the Africa-Pacific and Caribbean heads of leaders meeting, women’s Under-20 tri-nations soccer friendlies between PNG, Japan and the United States of America, the PNG-Kenya international cricket match and the Oceania men’s soccer championships from the weekend on.
Many departments and agencies had chosen to participate in the program in the cooler part of the day but Finance officers had to wait for Dr Ngangan who had to officiate at an important workshop. Mr Lupari had also instructed that this would be the start of an ongoing program where public servants would do a clean-up of their workplace neighborhood on a selected Friday of each month.
FUNDS FOR ABAU HEALTH CENTRE
Published on EMTV Online
A Health Centre, Vocational school and elementary school in the Central province where given financial assistance by the Department of Finance following the visit yesterday. The assistance by the department was a surprise for some but will go a long way in providing much needed services in the districts.
The Abau Health Centre in the Central province, established in the early 1960s is now runned down and in need of renovation. The
Health Centre will however soon see changes and new facilities after
Finance Secretary, Dr. Ken Ngangan presented a cheque of K100 000 to the
health centre during his visit to the District Treasury office. Long-time
health extension officer now the District Health Co-ordinator, Etene
Boyama was caught by surprise yesterday but thanked the secretary as the
funds would go a long way to help in rehabilitation.
She said the health centre was understaffed with limited facilities serving more than fifty patients per day. She added that six of the ten aid posts in the district have been closed due to accommodation and water problem adding more patients every day to the limited space the Centre can provide.
In addition to the donation for the Abau Health Centre, the Finance Secretary also donated K50 000 each to the Kwikila Vocational School and the Vatugoro Elementary school in the Rigo district.