Striving to build finance and accounting skills within the public sector

Head of ACCA SA, Nadine Kater is passionate about building finance and accounting skills within the public sector.

I recently ‘chaired’ a Public Sector Forum hosted by ACCA SA and the Auditor-General. Panellists included the Auditor-General, Terrence Nombembe, National Planning Commission member, Dr Vincent Maphai, Department of Public Services and Administration, Director-General, Mashwahle Diphofa, Treasury Director: Financial Management Improvement Programme, Schalk Human, Public Service Commission, Chairman, Ben Mthembu and Fasset CEO, Cheryl James.

Some of the challenges, which were identified include the fact that whenever a new Minister is appointed, strategy changes; the long lead time to fill positions; a high turnover of CFOs; difficulties in attracting financial management skills; the need to compete with the public sector for a very small pool of accounting talent; performance management and procurement; high vacancy rates within the public service, at a time when there are large numbers of unemployed graduates; high levels of unemployment among the youth.

However, the challenge that really ‘struck a chord’ with me was the revelation that there is currently a 34% vacancy rate for finance cadres within the public services. Clearly, something needs to be done as a matter of great urgency to build capacity within the public sector. It is not the time to point fingers: it is the time to join hands. It is only by collaborating, supporting and jointly strategizing that solutions can be found.

I was very encouraged by the fact that the public sector is implementing a number of very good initiatives, including the establishment of a School of Government; the implementation of a strong set of transversal norms and standards cross the public service; and measures to improve the public sector’s image, so as to be able to attract talent.

Panellists proffered a number of solutions, including placing unemployed graduates onto Work Readiness Programmes in order to enhance their employability; recruiting skills from outside the country; and working closely with professional bodies within the finance and accounting sector.

The latter, really resonated me with me, as did Cheryl James’ pronouncement that partnerships are required, since the challenge is too big for government, public entities, or a single professional body to attempt to tackle on its own. I fully agree.

I have invited the public sector and all professional bodies to work with ACCA SA. I am very confident that by working together we will be able to build much-needed capacity in the area of finance and accounting skills within the public sector.

Nadine Kater
Head of ACCA SA

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