Apr 13, 2023

Navigating Public Sector Asset Management Challenges in South East Europe: An Interview with Gorana Roje

We are happy to share some insights our associate fellow, Ms. Gorana Roje, provided about the nature of our successful cooperation in advancing public asset management in South East Europe (SEE). Ms. Roje is a Head of the Unit for State Asset Management Strategic Planning Coordination at the Croatian Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets and supports us in delivering our three-year Efficient Public Sector Asset Management (EPSAM) learning program. The underlying ambition is to bring SEE countries closer to international standards and good practices and help overcome reform obstacles.

Given your previous cooperation with the CEF, how would you describe the experience of working with our team?

The first that comes to mind is the feeling of satisfaction and the sense of accomplishment that comes out of hard work, substance over form attitude, commitment (to yourself and to the members of the team) to do “our part”, familiarity, no outsmarting, and lots of laughter. 

What makes the team experience so great is a combination of several factors, but the most important factor is how I feel about myself during the process. Team experiences that are most memorable are the ones in which I feel that I had made significant contributions. Working on the CEF’s knowledge-sharing activities, promoting networking with like-minded professionals worldwide, and building a sustainable community of practice, indeed feels like contributing much. The Efficient Public Sector Asset Management (EPSAM) program has certainly proved an outstanding community of experts, and I am happy and proud to be part of the team of dedicated and most professional colleagues and friends. 

From your perspective, what are some of the main challenges facing public sector asset management in the region of South East Europe?

It is hard to point out the main, out of many. However, creating a central strategic (long-term and sustainable) policy framework for the overall management of state assets, backed up with a clear institutional accountability framework, remains a #1 challenge for most countries in the region. The often lack of government-wide strategies, politically feasible and economically viable policies, and rules further exacerbate the framework fragmentation, as does the absence of a clear rationale for state ownership. Even if some assets are managed well, the overall result is often suboptimal. Other challenges would encompass setting up a register that provides complete, reliable, and updated information on the assets; improvements needed in the collection, classification, and dissemination of data on public assets (with stronger accountability mechanisms to translate the information on assets into better management); and reviewing the efficiency of asset use. 

What advice would you give to young professionals who are starting in public sector accounting and financial management, and what qualities do you think are most important for their growth and development?

Speaking from my own experience, I would advise them to look beyond the firm set of duties and beyond short-term implications. When I started working on a public sector asset management topic back in 2007, I was told it was not meant to be promising and yet it turned out to be essential for the resilience of public sector organizations and the efficient delivery of public services. It still is, and it will be. Can accounting support public sector financial (asset) management reforms? Absolutely.

I would also encourage young professionals not to be discouraged by the often lack of a well-structured system of incentives for government organizations and individuals, as there is a renewed need for accounting and financial management professionals to access learning and development to support their organizations and develop their careers. 

Stay open-minded and network with people to unlock opportunities and attend CEF events. Meet new people and gain fresh perspectives, which can help you grow professionally.

Looking to the future, what do you think are some of the key trends and developments we can expect to see in the field of public sector asset management, and how can organizations such as the CEF support professionals in this area?

Demands for sustainability and calls for efficiency. Demands for legal, institutional, and strategic policy requirements as the environment needed to support the reforms. Demands for building capacities for planning the reform, implementing the reform, and sustaining the reform. Countries in the region will need to put emphasis on viewing public asset reform as an integral part of public sector reforms: perceiving and exercising the reform in a managerial (and not purely administrative) context; designing a policy (outlining the governing principles), strategy (setting mid-term or long-term asset management objectives to implement the policy) and plans, as they set what is to be done in practice. The reform process would also need to be monitored and reported on.

The international impetus for reforms (for example, the goals of EU and OECD membership) will remain dominant, as they may help overcome some of the reforms’ obstacles. However, there is a risk that reforms may be formally adopted, but not implemented in practice. While reforms may take years to fully implement, further training of officials engaged in and responsible for managing public assets is essential to maintaining the momentum for continuous improvement in this area. The Community of Practice would benefit the region, which is exactly what is in the scope of the ongoing CEF learning initiatives on improving public sector asset management. 

And something personal for conclusion. What are you most proud of?

True, wholehearted and long-term friendships above all. Open communications with mutual trust. The fact that I happen to make others smile and be proud, and the fact that it does not take me much to click and connect. Not that distant second is the very fact that I got to work with sharp, like-minded people, who are both colleagues and friends. and that I got to be open-minded, inspiring the team to work at its best and feel most satisfied.