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Identifying contingent government liabilities as a prerequisite for sustainable financial administration

The accounting managers of the Nordic countries, as well as a number of financial administration experts and managers, met in Helsinki on 11–13 September. This year, it was the Finnish State Treasury’s turn to host the annual conference for discussing central government accounting and financial statements, the economic situation of the Nordic countries, and ongoing reforms in different countries. In addition to topics related to financial administration, the conference also focused on NATO reporting.

Töölönlahti Bay was cloaked in the damp fog of a warm autumn morning as the Nordic accounting managers and their colleagues arrived at Pikku Finlandia event center. The agenda of the three-day conference included a series of financial reporting issues that unite accounting experts from different countries. There was an air of expectation to the event – what could we learn from our colleagues and how are the challenges facing the world economy reflected in other Nordic countries?

In addition to a review of the national economy, the contingent liabilities of central government finances and the related risks represent a topic that has been considered in all participating countries. Contingent liabilities include government guarantees, which can, in certain situations, generate costs for the state.

“Financial risk management is important for fiscal policy and economic governance, especially as the economic growth outlook has remained moderate while financial responsibilities have grown strongly,” says State Treasury Accounting Manager Jaana Tiimonen.

Expanding the final central government accounts

In addition to contingent liabilities, expanding the final central government accounts and increasing the use of automation in the provision of financial statement information led to lively discussions. Tiimonen says that cooperation will continue on these topics as well.

“Even though we aren’t all member states of the European Union, we still have many things in common. It’s a privilege to be able to exchange ideas about various topics, such as the opportunities offered by automation. We also had discussion over dinner on the challenges related to the interpretation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation,” says Deputy Director Tanja Wistbacka.

New ideas and cooperation across state borders

The Nordic countries host several cooperation forums where they share information on topical themes, such as financial administration and payment transactions. In spring 2023, Oslo hosted a conference on payments whose topics included such issues as continuity planning, anti-money laundering, and sanctions.

“These events provide new perspectives on how other Nordic countries have handled similar issues related to accounting and payment transactions. The Nordic countries have a long and respectable tradition of cooperation and collaboration, with very similar yet slightly different national approaches that we can and should examine to learn from one another. The free-form discussions at these events are always very rewarding and mind-opening,” explains Lasse Skog, Director of the Finance, Information and Working Life Division, who participated in the conference.

After the last speeches at the conference in Helsinki, the baton was passed to the representative from Iceland, where the next meeting of the accounting managers will be held. For a moment, Pikku Finlandia’s pine-decorated hall remained full of happy chitchat, but soon it came time for these Nordic colleagues and friends to fly back home. Next year, they will meet on the island of volcanoes and hot springs, as Iceland will be responsible for organising the event.

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State Treasury Finland

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