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As President of ACFO, my responsibilities include ensuring that we are focused on our objectives, both short and long term, and that we have a plan in place with effectively allocated resources. Short-term, ACFO’s priorities are to deal with the impact of Workforce Adjustment (WFA), and to influence a minimal footprint on the financial management community where we can. We also want to successfully conclude collective bargaining where we achieve fair value for any concessions.Â Â Another short-term priority is to implement a professional development framework that serves the need of our community so that we are better equipped to deal with the many complex and comprehensive challenges that have become commonplace for the FI group.
It is important to note that prior toÂ WFA, financial capacity within Departments was so impaired that several Departments were – and still are – not meeting legislative reporting requirements. Senior financial officers have admitted that this is due to insufficient FI capacity and resources. They go on to say that external reporting requirements have reached an overwhelming state. They also acknowledge the current situation is not sustainable and the finance community will be increasingly impaired in delivering core comptrollership responsibilities. WFA will only amplify the problems within the FI community.
We at ACFO are seeking solutions for our membership. As financial officers, we take pride in serving the programs that we are embedded in; and in by doing so we serve Canadians.
But we have to be practical. We know that the current situation is not sustainable and we realize that the government has to address these capacity challenges. The government really has two choices: pull back on the election promise made to Canadians to provide better accountability by reducing legislative and regulatory reporting requirements, or increase financial capacity to meet its mandate.
In the long term, the Association has several interconnecting priorities. For example, FIs scored lower engagement than most other professionals in a recent survey of our group. There are many issues that need to be addressed, which are documented in ACFO’s whitepaper on FI engagement and retention.
Two issues that keep rising to the top are classification and professional development (PD). While PD is being addressed in the short term, classification is a more complex issue that will require focus as a longer-term priority. We expect to begin dialogue with the Employer sometime in 2013 in order to address classification renewal. We are also actively challenging Departments under the old classification standard as it is clear that the standard is not being applied consistently. There are many issues with how the old standard is being applied, and we need to correct these prior to the implementation of any new standard. This process is complicated and will required significant attention to detail. ACFO is committed to having this issue, and the related concerns, addressed.
Our overall objective is to create a financial community that attracts the best and brightest financial minds Canada has to offer. We need financial innovators who have a firm foundation in the world of finance; who are equipped with knowledge and experience that will help Canada be seen on the world stage as a true fiscal player.
The repercussions are too risky if Canada is seen as anything less. Future generations will be held ransom for decisions that the Government makes today. We cannot allow government to lose sight of the important contributions we make as FIs. Financial management is too serious a business to be politicized.
As much as we are challenged in the short-term, we are also focused on long-term objectives. We need to ensure that the actions we take create an FI community that is fully engaged, recognized, and respected today; and that position the financial community to better serve government program delivery five to ten years from now.
Milt Isaacs, CMA, CPFA
President, Association of Canadian Financial Officers