For a subject that affects every aspect of everyone’s life, public finance management (PFM) can be a difficult subject to engage with. Unless sensationalized on the news about the misuse of public funds through corruption cases, no one is really interested in budgets, tax frameworks or absorption rates. Yet PFM is responsible for the state of the road network, the availability of maize floor and even the ability for a person to open a simple business.
So what is it that we need to do to get people, wananchi, to pay attention? We asked a few people, and found out that the real crux of the matter was the communication. This is what they told us.
There are too many numbers and not enough stories. The minute someone says “budget” most everyone’s eyes glaze over. Math has gotten a bad rep over the years. It is categorized as nerdy and difficult to understand. While, yes we PFM specialists love math, PFM is not all about that math. PFM in its entirety helps us plan for our future and the future of our children based on PFM in fund management; helps us get visa free access to other countries based on PFM in trade relations; and even what we take home as salary at the end of the month based on the wage bill and taxes. PFM specialists need to find ways of letting the stories come through the numbers.
PFM is an acronym, and we hate acronyms. I get it. “EGC has done extensive work with counties through the KDSP, and has concluded that there needs to be much more oversight by the IBEC.” It’s all gibberish to the rest of the world. Sometimes we as PFM specialists don’t know what those acronyms mean either – there are just too many. While the short form helps us to get to the point faster, it also alienates many others who may have had an interest in finding out what the fiscal health of the country is. PFM specialists need to tone down on the acronyms and speak English.
We have no control at the end of the day – the politicians will eat. This is where I beg to differ. If we took time to help people understand how the PFM systems could be better improved to put a stop to corruption, the power is in our hands to control the narrative and to push for systems that work. Every day at Expertise Global Consulting we tell these stories and write the reports that outline the challenges, areas where the leakages are and how to fix them. But as pointed out earlier, we can do and must do better. We must bring out the issues, link it to the relevant areas of PFM, and then tell the story.
We are listening to the Wananchi and they want transparency, they want to be included and we at Expertise Global Consulting are working with development partners, county governments and other PFM Specialists to deliver these solutions.
So, fellow PFM specialists, to get people interested, the message is clear. We need to :
- Tell the stories (and hide the numbers within the stories)
- Ditch the acronyms (ikr?)
- Empower people
There was once we were doing the series called “Asking For A Friend” – a vlog explaining key concepts in PFM and Economics. Then we got really busy (and in the meantime grew into an award winning company). We are gearing up to get back to that – soon.
Let us know your thoughts and send us your comments/experiences.