The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) organized an international conference in Abu Dhabi on September 24 and 25 on Transforming Public Financial Management. Several strengths of the PEFA Framework were discussed at the event, including its sound technical foundation, international recognition and quality assurance mechanisms, helpdesk functional and knowledge repository in the PEFA secretariat which increasingly contributes to improving the quality of the assessment reports. It was also discussed how PEFA is evidence and indicator based which reduces assessment optimism bias so common in the more loosely structured institutional analyses. The opportunities for comparison over time and between countries and regions was noted. PEFA is also currently the only tool that provides a full circle overview of PFM systems and can serve multiple purposes including fiduciary assurance, PFM reform design input, monitoring and building consensus.
Some challenges were discussed. PEFA assessments can be costly and time-consuming and do not capture all aspects of PFM at a deep level of detail. The assessment processes work best when they are government owned and driven which is not always the case. Sometimes, PEFA assessments are used without care which can lead to cookie-cutter reform approaches and PEFA has taken its share of criticism for promoting isomorphic mimicry. The need for supplementing PEFA assessments with an understanding of underlying technical and non-technical causes of PFM performance was also discussed.
The panel discussed that there can be no substantive PFM reform without a solid technical foundation and that PEFA Assessments can be a valuable building block, but:
- Non-technical factors of ownership and interest should be understood, factored in and worked on. Continuously.
- While the MoF is a key counterpart, broader stakeholders groups should be involved when planning and implementing reforms as well as after reform implementation for feedback, adjustment and sustainability.
- Agility in assessment, use and responsiveness is key to relevance and impact.
- Ongoing monitoring, learning, feedback and adjustment during implementation is key to countering and/or leveraging the unforeseen
- For PEFA, the assessment process (end-to-end) should be leveraged to build capacity and common understanding of reform needs and goals. Reform work starts with the concept note – not when the report is done and dusted.
The PEFA secretariat delivers training to about 500 government officials and development partners yearly. Additionally, the Secretariat participate as speakers in international events and trainings.