Public Sector Accounting and Auditing in Europe

public sector

Public Sector Accounting and Auditing in Europe –
The Challenge of Harmonization
Edited by Isabel Brusca, Eugenio Caperchione, Sandra Cohen & Francesca Manes Rossi
International Institute of Administrative Sciences
Palgrave Macmillan – £68.00

In and of itself, the challenge of harmonization covers an acute, rather far and wide-reaching sociological terrain; it’s not a subject or a thought process one normally associates with something as didactic and altogether considered as accounting and auditing. Yet Public Sector Accounting and Auditing in Europe – The Challenge of Harmonization really isn’t like most books of a similar persuasion.

Fact is, each of its sixteen chapters have been meticulously researched by an array of leading practitioners in their field, that, dare I say it, traverse most of Europe. Surely an economic obstacle course that makes the likes of T. S. Eliot’s dense, yet everlastingly brilliant The Waste Land, appear positively translucent.

Nigh all of the book’s 253 pages are concise, thorough and comprehensive in such a way that it presents public sector accounting, budgeting and auditing systems (amid all levels of government) from that of fourteen European countries – as is based on he more than detailed contributions from twenty-five leading researchers.

Said analysis is followed by a comparative synthesis of whatever governmental accounting system is being discussed; a facet of the book’s presentation, which, according to Claudio Mariani, Partner of KPMG Spa, Italy, accounts for it being a most worthwhile publication that can be: ”used by managers and professionals interested in working to improve the harmonization, transparency, accountability and efficiency of our European Public Sector.”

It also sheds light on the challenges that are likely to be faced by Europe as it embraces the long discussed move towards the adoption of the European Public Sector Accounting Standards (EPSAS). Thus offering a valuable reference resource for students, academics, auditors, researchers, public administrators and last but by no means least, policy makers.

That the Preface of Public Sector Accounting and Auditing in Europe opens with the following economic feisty-cat amid countless languid-pigeons, makes for interesting reading if nothing else: ”During the last 20 years the accounting systems of all levels of government in Europe have undergone substantial changes mainly inspired by the New Public Financial Management. The process of public sector accounting modernization has been recently intensified by the demands imposed by several stakeholders for the disclosure of high quality – and relevant to decision making – financial information to be used for transparency and accountability purposes […]. Moreover, the substantial accounting and budgeting changes that have taken place over the last 20 years have not always been communicated in a timely fashion beyond country boundaries […]. This book is an answer to this shortcoming.”

Hmm…

”The substantial accounting and budgeting changes that have taken place over the last 20 years have not always been communicated in a timely fashion beyond country boundaries” (my italics).

How about honest fashion?

Given the subject matter, it ought to go without saying that this book makes for relatively dry reading. That said, it can occasionally be fun embarking on a tour de discovery in stark relation to that of the above quotation.

For instance, in Marine Portal’s Chapter Six, which addresses France (‘Public Sector Accounting and Auditing in France’) there’s nothing other than a really terrific get-out-clause which reads a follows: ”The General Account of the State is published every year and presents the state’s financial position made up of four elements: the balance sheet, the income statement, the table cash flows and the notes. The statement of budgetary execution is not included in the general account but in the budgetary documents because, as mentioned in article 27 of the constitutional by-law: ”The State shall keep accounts of budgetary revenues and expenditure and a general accounting for all of its operations.” That is why the statement of budgetary execution is presented in a different document, the annual Finance Law […].”

So there you go…

Edited by Isabel Brusca (Professor at the University of Zaragoza, Spain),
Eugenio Caperchione (Professor at Modena and Reggio Emilia University, Italy), Sandra Cohen (Associate Professor at Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece) and Francesca Manes Rossi (Associate Professor at Salerno University, Italy); this notable and remarkably well researched book has been published as part of Palgrave and Macmillan’s Governance and Public Management Series – which, having read this, looks set to raise the academic bar.

David Marx

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