CIPFA calls for Northern Ireland Executive to improve governance of public finances

28-02-2017

The newly elected Northern Ireland Executive must improve its governance of public services and resources to prevent further political upheaval the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) warns today (28 February).

Ahead of the Northern Ireland Assembly elections on Thursday, CIPFA has highlighted in a manifesto that the upcoming election is in part due to several governance failures, one of which could lead to an overspend of public money of up to £485m. To avoid the same mistakes from being made, the Institute calls upon the newly elected Executive to improve its governance of public finances.

CIPFA believes that to achieve better governance, the new assembly must consider the following:

  • The newly elected Executive must re-assert responsible and ethical governance principles. Public service entities will need to be reviewed and monitored to ensure they have these principles interwoven into their behaviours and practices and are working in the public interest.
  • CIPFA suggests that any outgoing ministers must work with their replacements to set out strategic outcomes for public service bodies. CIPFA believes that in order to realise these outcomes, there must be measurable improvements in performance.
  • To achieve financial sustainability, the Northern Ireland Executive must assess the available resources and how they can be best applied to meet the needs of its population. This should include an appraisal of the future funding needed to support the delivery of health and social care.
  • CIPFA advocates that the remit for a new fiscal council, which was proposed in the Fresh Start Agreement, should be established. This remit should include powers to develop its own independent long-term financial forecasts. CIPFA claims the council would be able to effectively support the devolution of further tax and borrowing powers by monitoring and scrutinising the finances of the Northern Ireland Executive.
  • CIPFA believes that the newly elected Assembly should use Brexit as an opportunity to reassess the devolved powers and funding mechanisms to better serve local communities, as by devolving further powers, some of which will be regained from the EU, the Executive may be able to more successfully manage public services and grow the local economy. As well as this, CIPFA believes that Barnett formula should be replaced with a funding mechanism that takes account of local need.

Commenting on CIPFA’s Northern Ireland manifesto, Head of Devolved Administrations at CIPFA Don Peebles said:

"The Northern Ireland Executive drastically needs to improve its public financial management. Indeed, the reason for the 2017 election is, in part, the result of a series of already well-publicised governance failures. 

“It is time to put public services on the right financial footing again, as only through good governance can Northern Ireland deliver modern and progressive public services. Core principles have to be established that will protect those services from corruption and help the people of Northern Ireland regain confidence in public bodies and their leaders.

“The newly elected Assembly needs to put the public interest at the heart of its agenda straightaway and keep it there as the foundation of its decision making going forward.”

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact Saskia Black on T: 020 7543 5830 or 07818 5707 82 or E: saskia.black@cipfa.org

Notes to editors

CIPFA’s Northern Ireland manifesto CIPFA’s Five Point Plan is attached to this email.

About CIPFA

CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, is the professional body for people in public finance. CIPFA shows the way in public finance globally, standing up for sound public financial management and good governance around the world as the leading commentator on managing and accounting for public money.