Transparency practices ‘are improving’

The transparency of the Government’s public finances is approaching international standards, but requires more work, especially in the area of national budgets, says the IMF.

The assessment was delivered by the IMF on the basis of its revised transparency requirements and Ireland offered to take part in the pilot programme, applying the new standards.

The results, which were positive overall following extensive changes in recent years, should add to the country’s credibility with markets and investors.

A statement from the IMF said: “Ireland is approaching best practice in fiscal reporting and forecasting and meets the basic requirements for fiscal risk disclosure under the revised fiscal transparency code.

“The report also noted the Irish Government’s ambitious plans for further improving the timeliness, quality and comprehensiveness of its budgets, statistics and accounts.”

However, it pointed out that fiscal disclosure remained fragmented and diffuse, and recommended five measures for the Government to take over five years. These were to expand the institutional coverage of budgets, statistics, and accounts; recognise all assets, liabilities, and associated fiscal flows in fiscal reports; modernise and harmonise accounting standards across the public sector; accelerate the timetable for submission and approval of the annual budget and financial statements; and to improve the analysis forecast changes, long-term trends, and fiscal risks.

Consolidating available information into a more comprehensive set of summary fiscal documents would put Ireland “at the forefront of fiscal transparency practice within a reasonable timeframe and relatively modest additional cost”.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin said the assessment would help ensure that Irish transparency practices would give a more complete picture to investors, policymakers, and citizens.

The Government has already begun to make some of the changes recommended, with the CSO in April publishing an integrated quarterly financial statistics for general government, including the value of public-private partnership contracts and government guarantees and estimates of the general government’s overall net financial worth.

The Government will present the budget on Oct 15 in line with all other EU countries.

A steering group supervised by the two departments and including the CSO, office of the comptroller and auditor general, and occasional representatives from other bodies, will assess and implement “as appropriate” the IMF recommendations, their statement added.

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