Meet the brilliant minds behind your training course!
In this series, we sit down with our trainers, to ask them about latest developments in their field of expertise and learning methodologies – we also draw on their vast experience as practitioners in their respective fields to deliver helpful tips to you.
First up, we interview Frixos Zempylas, of Zempylas & Associates, who will be leading IPSAS (International Public Sector Accounting Standards) training workshops in Nicosia, Cyprus this year.
Frixo, the IPSAS training workshops that will take place in April and May this year in Nicosia are the first of their kind in Cyprus and the region. Do you see more demand for such training in the New Year? If so, from which specific government sectors?
FZ: There is definitely momentum at this time. By 2025, all European countries will be reporting under IPSAS. Thus, if governments want to be in compliance with the new EU-wide rules, there will be demand for understanding the practicalities of IPSAS.
I think this is an exciting change as the adoption of IPSAS brings with it a host of benefits: not least an increase in transparency and efficiency in the government sector. At the moment, it is difficult for the public to understand what is going on financially in the public sector: they need financial statements that fully disclose assets and liabilities, which does not occur at the moment. There is momentum on IPSAS now: once they become a legal requirement (at the point of adoption by the EU), there will be no way back!
When we say Public Sector what entities does that cover? Or is it optional to the entity? For example, can NGOs use IPSAS? The UN? NASA?
There are three categories of entities that are covered by IPSAS, as follows:
- The national government, comprising ministries (administered by a Finance Ministry) and parliament
- Regional governments, comprising states, provinces, municipalities
- Related government entities, comprising various boards, commissions and any semi-governmental organisations
The main criterion for IPSAS to be relevant is that the given organisation has to be controlled by a public sector entity. If an organisation is controlled by a public sector entity, then the financial reporting has to fall under the required IPSAS. Thus, some charities and NGOs will qualify as requiring IPSAS reporting, but not all!
In a situation, for example, where an organisation only has one part of its holding managed by a public sector entity, it will report to them under IPSAS so that that this is consolidated under government reports. For the UN, IPSAS are very relevant … NASA, on the other hand, although it is a public entity, it reports according to the formats prescribed by the US Government and its Department of Treasury. As they do not report under IPSAS, we will not be seeing NASA financial statements prepared according to IPSAS anytime soon!
Training-wise, the key audience has to be the various finance ministries that will have to be kept up to date on the application of the standards, as they are responsible for the administration of the reporting process and the consolidation.
Can you give us a taste of what participants can expect from the IPSAS training workshops in April and May?
Most importantly, these will be interactive workshops with real life examples that relate to participants’ workplace.
We will see the problems associated with IPSAS. For example, an interesting issue comes out in the measurement of utilities: when a government body takes a donation from a private donor, how do we measure the value of that donation/utility? One way would be to simply state 1 EUR in statements to show that it is there, but without estimating its value. Another way is to calculate what would be the fair value of the utility in the market and report its value based on that.
Another interesting example of an issue arising from the application of IPSAS will be the viability of insurance funds.
And for those interested in the differences between IFRS and IPSAS, is there a lot to cover?
The key difference that keeps appearing time and again is as follows:
For a public sector organisation, the end goal is goods and services to the public, and the means to the end goal is the money that has been contributed to the public sector organisation.
For a commercial organisation the end goal is the money, and the means to achieve the end goal is the offering of goods and services.
So, for example, an interesting issue that arises and that we will cover during the workshops is: Under IPSAS we have the introduction of the ‘service potential concept’, which affects the definition of assets, liabilities, incomes and expenses. IPSAS recognises that the entity’s primary intention is to provide a service to the public, whereas under IFRS the primary intention of the organisation is seen as simply to generate profit. And therefore the same bed will have a different value in a commercial hotel than it will in a public hospital. Not to mention how you value a statue that is standing in a public place: will the value of a statue of a great national hero be depreciated over time?
Can you tell us a bit about your background, before you ventured into Training?
After I graduated from university, I became an ERP Implementation Consultant at an IT company. I then moved to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Advisory Department. Since 2012, I have been partnered with the EY Academy of Business and I set up my own consultancy, F. Zempylas & Associates, and audit firm, FZ Audit.
You were trained to be an auditor and a consultant. How did this lead you to financial training?
I love training! I like meeting new people and interacting with them. It goes without saying that I enjoy travelling and getting to know new cultures. I am always fascinated by how different people perceive the same thing in a different way.
I also like engaging with and developing new products, new ideas, new solutions – taking knowledge from a conceptual level and implementing it in a real-life situation. These are all things that the training environment makes possible, always challenging you to take your existing knowledge further.
One example is the course on Lean Accounting that I recently led: it was exciting to teach participants the same thing from different angles, i.e., accountants being able to experience the accounting, but then also the management of the accounting process.
I am looking forward to welcoming new participants to our IPSAS workshops in Nicosia!
Meet the Trainer Part Two – added 8th March 2016
Some of us had a few more niggling questions after meeting the trainer, Frixos Zempylas, so we sat back down for Round Two with him!
Frixo, we have been asked if those familiar with IFRS will benefit from attending our IPSAS training workshops – what is your advice on this?
While there are many similarities between the two, IFRS specialists will still benefit from attending, because there are some particular differences in the concepts used:
- The ‘service potential concept’, which we referred to previously (above)
- Recognition of revenue from non-exchange transactions
- Assets and revenues
- Presentation of budgetary information
- Dealing with assets that are non-cash generating
There are some interesting issues to cover, which will be interesting to those familiar with IFRS as well.
So if there is one thing we should know about IPSAS, what is it?
The main message, I think, is that it is an important vehicle for public sector accountability.
Like every entity in the world that reports transparently now, the public sector that reports under IPSAS will also be performing accountably. Now, what does this will look like in practice is also an interesting question.
For example, when we have a financial statement in front of us, who is held accountable on its basis: the president, the parliament, the specific ministry? All of these together?
In financial reporting, you cannot pinpoint the specific responsibility for a decision straightaway perhaps, since a given transaction in a financial report does not tell us about the impact of this transaction or who was responsible for it in the first place.
However, the information will be out there in the public domain – something that is not necessarily the case at the moment – and will help interested citizens, other governments, foreign investors have reliable and straightforward information on the economic state of affairs.
Could one then say that IPSAS is synonymous with ‘government transparency’?
I think it is accurate to describe it as improving transparency, accountability, as well as efficiency. The government also benefits from having more informative financial information available to them – given that they can interpret this – and this puts them in a position to make better decisions. Moreover, such a framework means that more useful information like this contributes also to developing more reliable credit risk rating.
We have already mentioned the benefits of accountability and transparency for the average interested citizen. This will be a big change.
Finally, completely non-IPSAS related: you are a trainer as well as a practising consultant and director of your own firm. Can you share some tips on multitasking and handling impossible workloads…?
I need someone’s advice on this myself!
The most important thing here always is prioritisation and knowing how to work through the different demands on yourself.
I was recently given advice on a good model to follow: the model of Four Ds.
Whenever I receive an email, a task, an enquiry, I have to follow one of the four Ds:
- Either it’s not my concern so I delete it
- Or I know where it needs to go so I delegate it
- If it’s not for now I have to diarise it
- If it’s for now, I have to deal with it
All four steps require work and judgement – and that is the tricky part!
You can find out more about the IPSAS training workshops and register here.
IPSAS Two-Day Training Workshop
IPSAS Four-Day Training Workshop