Strengthening Fiscal Reporting in South Asia

Posted by Sailendra Pattanayak and Udaya Pant [1]

In September 2018, the IMF’s South Asia Regional Training and Technical Assistance Center (SARTTAC) organized two workshops in New Delhi, India on fiscal reporting. The first workshop was targeted at mid- and senior-level officials from the budget and treasury departments of SARTTAC’s six member countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka) and a couple of Indian states. 30 officials, including 7 women participated in the workshop. The second workshop was a training event conducted in association with the Controller General of Accounts of the Indian Ministry of Finance. It involved 21 participants from various central government accounting services and the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Strengthening fiscal reporting is a priority reform in South Asian countries. Through interactive lectures, concrete examples of international practices, case studies, and practical group exercises, participants in the first workshop discussed a wide range of issues, including: the classification, coverage, and consolidation of fiscal data; the GFSM 2014 framework and its application to fiscal reporting; accounting and fiscal reporting standards; the importance of fiscal data quality and integrity through adequate reconciliations; IT-based systems for fiscal reporting; and the fiscal reporting pillar of the Fund’s Fiscal Transparency Code. Participants also compared the experiences of their respective countries. The Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General of India attended the opening session and highlighted several fiscal reporting challenges/issues faced by Indian national and state governments. His presentation triggered a discussion among participants whose countries faced similar challenges.

The participants identified gaps in their countries’ fiscal reporting systems and actions needed to address them. These gaps include inadequate coverage of fiscal reports (e.g., exclusion of off-budget entities and funds) and lack of timely reconciliation/validation of fiscal data. Other gaps include delay in the preparation of annual financial statements, inconsistent accounting classifications and/or outdated chart of accounts, and lack of a clear methodology for consolidation of fiscal data.

The second workshop focused on training the participants in key areas of fiscal reporting such as the chart of accounts, the GFSM framework, application of public sector accounting standards, and fiscal transparency. The workshop sessions highlighted international good practices as well as current issues and challenges in India.

Both workshops were well received and led to the identification of fiscal reporting gaps and reform priorities by the participants. The key takeaways suggest the need to continue the ongoing reforms in this area, in line with international standards and good practices.

[1] Sailendra Pattanayak is Deputy Division Chief in FAD; Udaya Pant is PFM Advisor at SARTTAC.

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