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ACCA sets out the fifty forces leading change in the public sector globally that professional accountants need to prepare for

Economic growth, quality and availability of the global talent pool and business leader’s responsiveness to change are the top three drivers of change in the public sector globally says ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) in a new report.

Drivers of change in the public sector uncovers a total of fifty key forces that will affect the global public sector landscape between now and 2021, which encompass challenges from governance and strategy through to operations and talent development.

This is the first global ACCA report to focus exclusively on identifying the key factors that will change in the public sector and to assess how they will shape the future, with ACCA asserting that global changes will have a local impact and governments will need to be at the forefront of tackling their effects.

Stephen Emasu, chair of ACCA’s global forum for the public sector says, ‘The scale and pace of change in the public sector is accelerating like never before. Effective governments need to understand which issues should be their top priorities and when they are likely to impact in order to benefit their country’s public sector.

‘Economic growth unsurprisingly leads as the top driver of change globally, crucially because it’s a key measure of a nation’s health and prosperity. Western Europe and Asia Pacific rated this issue particularly highly, followed by Africa and South Asia but only just over half the respondents (51%) in North America.

‘Respondents considered the global talent pool to be the second most critical driver for the public sector. Asia Pacific region ranked this most highly (49%) followed by South Asia (44%), North America (41%) and Africa (36%). Western Europe rated this at only 26%, probably explained by the region’s ability to attract talent from other regions, creating an imbalance. Nevertheless, attracting people with the right skills is a long-term challenge for the public sector and sustained efforts will be required to close the ‘talent gap’ globally.

‘Business leaders’ responsiveness to change and disruption is also crucial as organisations are generally defined by the qualities of their leaders. People and their ability to lead will always be the key to unlocking organisational value. Respondents in North America and South Asia both rated this equally highly (43%) followed by Africa (38%).’

Each driver was assessed against eight categories: economy, politics and law, society, business of government, science and technology, environment, energy and resources, the practice of accounting and the accountancy profession to determine the likely and timely impact they will place on the sector.

‘Collectively these drivers of change are making the public sector environment more fluid and forcing it to evolve,’ says Helen Brand OBE, chief executive at ACCA. ‘It is an exciting time to be a professional accountant in the public sector. There is a huge opportunity to help shape the public services of the future, achieving value for money and long-term sustainability. Arguably, there are few other areas that provide the diversity of challenge and fulfilment found in the sector. To perform their roles well, public sector finance professionals need to be able to navigate the present and prepare for the future to ensure that the best value is obtained from public funds.

‘Professionals accountants in the public sector finance function will need to adapt to these prevailing winds of change by honing in on their technical and specialist skills, as well as developing new attributes, in order to meet emerging challenges and make the most of fresh opportunities. This also echoes our Professional accountants – the future research which laid out the skills needed by future employers.’

The research findings presented in this report are based on over 1,000 online survey responses by senior executives, ACCA members and members of other professional accountancy bodies working in public sector organisations during the months of May to August 2016. The online survey was complemented with 13 roundtables held in 12 countries (China, Ireland, Kenya, Ghana, UK, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, US and Zimbabwe), during the months of May to September. Over 300 participants attended the roundtables and one-to-one interviews with senior leaders have been conducted to shape the insights in this report.