In 2012, on the back of a similar project in which the South African Institute for Chartered Accountants (SAICA) was enlisted by the Gauteng province to provide financial management support to all municipalities in Gauteng, SAICA was approached by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to aid them in a radical intervention process aimed at 50 of the country’s Further Education and Training (FET) colleges. The National Development Plan and DHET has recognized for some time that a lack of skills development is at the core of many of the problems that beset the country, and the rapid but responsible growth of FET colleges is seen as key to addressing this problem.
DHET needed SAICA’s help to redesign a common set of control measures, and to ensure that the requisite skills were in place to support both the existing FET structure as well as their ambitious plans to grow the number and extent of the colleges. DHET recognized that, to begin with, SAICA needed to replace all 50 Chief Financial Officers, to introduce the new systems of governance and control, and to up-skill the accounting staff. The Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, called on SAICA a year ago to assist the government by filling all the vacant CFO positions with retired or seconded CAs(SA) on a medium-term basis. This would create a suitable environment for the roll-out of new systems of control, and as importantly FET funding by ensuring that appropriate skills would be in place to manage the finances of each institution.
One year down the road, SAICA has successfully completed this first phase of the project by filling all the vacant CFO positions, albeit temporarily. The project’s secondary objective – to ensure that all FET colleges utilize the nationally agreed governance and control structures and that all accounting staff in the colleges are appropriately skilled is well under way. A new challenge now begins: to fill these CFO positions with permanent staff.
“I think that the role of all professions in this country has to change.” say Chantyl Mulder, Senior Executive: Professional Development, Transformation and Growth, SAICA. “It can’t be that as professional bodies, you exist only for your members – that is just so short-sighted. I think that professional bodies have an enormous role to play in terms of the development of skills for our country and assisting where needed in our particular areas of expertise.”
If professional bodies are going to deliver to a sustainable future for South Africa they could do worse than to follow the lead that SAICA has shown. With the success of public institutions being so closely tied to their financial management, SAICA’s wealth of knowledge in terms of governance, accountability and process – knowledge gained in the private sector – is increasingly being used to underpin the government’s National Development Plan’s objectives and in working for the greater good.