What are the principles of managing public money?

I’m working on an online course about the principles of managing public money. The course is aimed at everyone in the public sector, whether employees, politicians, volunteers, etc. I want it to be a great course that is valuable to the people who register for it. I’ve got over thirty years’ experience of managing public money and there is a temptation to cram all my knowledge into a single course, but that would not be a good idea.

There’s not a technology reason why I could not have a course comprised of hundreds of lessons that would take the learner many weeks to complete. There is, I think, a practical limit on what a person is willing to take on, especially if it is additional to their work commitments. This means that one of my challenges is to find the balance between including enough material for the course to be valuable without going into too much detail and becoming onerous — or worse, boring. I’ve spent quite a bit of time, therefore, deciding what to include and what to exclude and I’ve had to delete some sections and ideas that I would like to teach in order to keep things focused.

The platform I am using for my courses allows lessons to be grouped into modules. I think five modules, each taking one to two hours to complete is about right. This is something someone could complete in a day if they really wanted to, but more likely they could complete it over 1 to 4 weeks to fit with their schedule.

The five modules I have now decided on are set out below.

  1. The big picture—to cover what the public sector is for and the differences in financial management between the private and public sectors.
  2. The principles of funding public services—so that learners understand why some services are funded from taxes whilst others charge fees to users
  3. The fundamental importance of the budget in the public sector—because it is.
  4. Principles for making decisions about spending public money—in order to get the best possible public services in terms of value for money.
  5. Being accountable for the use of public money—because anyone who handles public money has to be willing and able to account for what they did and what they did not do.

These are my thoughts on grouping the course into modules. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts and observations in the comments section.

If you’re interested in this course you can sign up for my mailing list and be the first to know when the course opens for registration by clicking here.

Creating an online course about managing public money

This week I made a start on creating my first paid-for course. It is a course aimed at anyone working in the public sector who wants to know more about the big picture of financial management. It is concerned with explaining the differences in financial management between the public and private sector, how public bodies are funded, and the governance arrangements that tend to apply to public workers. It also explains the concept of value for money, something which is vitally important to organisations that do not sell their products and services in a free market.

I thought it might be interesting to write a series of blog posts over the next few weeks that show how the course was created…

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Online accounting training for one

Online accounting training for one

I wrote previously about the work I do for Ibba Girls Boarding School in South Sudan and the trip I made to the school in February 2015 to recruit a new finance manager. The school is (almost entirely) funded by a UK charity, the Friends of Ibba Girls School (FIGS), and it is important to FIGS that the school has high standards of probity and governance to go with the high quality education. That’s why the school is willing to employ a finance manager whose primary job is to manage the school’s cash on a day to day basis.

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Online certificate in IPSAS launched

ACCA logo I’m a CIPFA accountant but over the last few months I’ve been working with a different accounting institute, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) on the development of an online course. The course is their Certificate in International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). The course opened today for registrations.

Those who don’t know much about the accounting profession might not be entirely surprised to learn that accountants have lots of rules and regulations to follow. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, depending on your point of view) the rules and regulations are not the same for every organisation in the world. There are some differences between countries in the accounting standards used by private sector companies although many countries have adopted the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

IFRS nearly fit, but don’t quite fit, public sector bodies. Public bodies have some significant differences in their finances, such as having tax-raising powers, and investing in assets like roads and parks and schools and public hospitals that have no promise of earning them income in the future but will cost them money to operate and maintain. Hence, over the last 15 years or so, the accounting profession, in the guise of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board (IPSASB) has been developing and publishing IPSASs. There are now 32 of them (plus a special one for public bodies that use cash accounting rather than the more sophisticated accruals basis of accounting). The full set is available for free in PDF format from the IPSASB (use this link) but be warned, there are 2,000 pages over two volumes, and a total download of over 8MB.

There are some countries (including Austria, Cambodia, Kenya, Spain,South Africa, and Vietnam) and organisations (including the European Commission, NATO and the United Nations family of organisations) that have adopted IPSASs as they are. In some other countries, like the UK, public bodies follow the IFRS as far as they are able, and look to IPSAS for guidance on how to deal with transactions that IFRS doesn’t deal with. And there are other countries who have developed their own standards for their public bodies, often using the IFRS and IPSAS as a basis.

Anyway, my point is that IPSASs are important to public sector accountants, either because they are used directly, or because they underpin the accounting standards that they follow, and the course by the ACCA is intended to address the need for accountants around the world to know what IPSASs are, and at least understand the important principles. If you are interested in the course you can read more about its contents and find out how to register for it at the ACCA’s website.

Something a bit different ...

It's been a while since I posted here. I've got a few ideas in mind for some posts about managing public money, some inspired by a recent course I did at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. That course is also mentioned in a guest blog post I have written for a friend. That post is about the importance of personal development when you work on a freelance basis. You can see the post here.