Sandile Mnguni CA(SA) believes the public sector is a great place to work for anyone who has a passion and interest in society and how communities develop and live together.
Chartered accountants working in the public sector help to shape public spending at local, provincial and national level, ensuring that taxpayers are receiving value for money from the expenditure.
It was while he was in Grade 11 that Sandile Mnguni made the decision to become a CA(SA). He comes from a business-oriented entrepreneurial family and spent much of his time helping his mother to manage family shops in Ugu district, KwaZulu-Natal. It was during this period that he developed a passion for numbers.
University was not an option when Mnguni finished school, as it was not affordable. He went instead to Technikon Natal (now Durban University of Technology) where he did a Diploma in Cost and Management Accounting and then BTech in Cost and Management Accounting.
In 2001, he was given permission to complete BCom Honours in accounting or a Certificate in the Theory of Accounting (CTA) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). He was a distance learning student, which gave him the opportunity to continue working for the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA), under the leadership of the renowned Terence Nombembe, who served as Auditor-General from 2006 to 2013 and gained a reputation for integrity as well as being an outspoken critic of corruption.
‘Terrence played an important role in my decision to become a CA(SA),’ says Mnguni. ‘The AGSA used to run a SAICA training programme supported by some of the accounting firms but the access to the programme was limited. When Terrence visited KZN AGSA provincial office, he informed them that the programme would be expanded and motivated staff to join the programme. We were excited about the possibilities and a number of us joined the programme and also registered for CTA at the UKZN. I completed my CTA in 2002. I wrote part 1 and part 2 exams in 2003 and I passed both exams first time. At the end of 2003 I finished my articles at the AGSA.’
He stayed on at the AGSA as an audit manager. In 2007 he was promoted to senior manager, the equivalent of an engagement partner, a position he held until 2012.
Armed with years of experience in the public sector, he joined eThekwini Metro as the Deputy Head: Corporate Accounting in 2012 and in 2014 was promoted to Head: Expenditure. His responsibilities included overseeing the budget office, financial reporting, departmental accounting support, accounts payable and the SAICA training programme. During his stay at eThekwini, working with teams across the metro, they were able to achieve a clean audit in 2015.
His next move, in 2018, was to Bonakude Consulting, a black-owned and managed professional accounting, auditing and consulting firm. But the public sector remained his calling and when he was asked to join Ithala Development Finance Corporation (IDFC), a provincial development agency under the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Department, in 2019, he did not hesitate.
‘My commitment to the public sector is really born from my family history,’ he says. ‘When people were unable to afford to buy food, my parents would allow them to take what they needed and pay them when they could. That started my love for working with communities, and with vulnerable people who might be experiencing poverty, or hardship. As we know, the AGSA assists parliament to hold to account and call to account, all people entrusted with the management of public funds and resources. This, in turn, has an impact on the growth of the economy and the wellbeing of citizens. It is vital and important work.’
He says the example set by the AGSA in its capacitating of the public sector by training future CAs(SA) was one that he recommended be replicated at eThekwini Metro. ‘Within finance, there were a number of people who were about to retire so with the support of former City Manager Sbu Sithole and the former CFO, Krish Kumar, we introduced the SAICA training programme to ensure that we would have access to new skills. We also worked with National Treasury as they also had a similar programme. The programme has already produced five CAs(SA) and some of those are still at the Metro, playing their part in ensuring it is run transparently.’
When he joined Ithala, where he spent close to two-and-a-half years, there was a directive by the Accounting Standards Board (ASB) to migrate from Generally Accepted Accounting Practice (GAAP) to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), which happened in 2018/2019.
‘I had to ensure the project was a success and that we would be able to submit IFRS-compliant financial statements. There was a finance team in place, but there were several challenges. The CFO position was vacant, and the finance general manager was also new to the organisation. I had to hit the ground running to ensure we would be able to deliver the migration project within the timeframe. I joined in March and the IFRS-compliant financial statements were expected by the end of May. There was not much time, but we did it and some of the subsidiaries were able to achieve clean audits despite first-time adoption of IFRS.’
He says the financial services sector was sorely affected by the pandemic and recovery will be a long-term process, with banks continuing to report financial losses. ‘We have been affected too. As soon as lockdown was announced, we took stock of our three business units – commercial properties, business loans for SMMEs, and banking services. Our customers were mostly unable to operate and could therefore not service their debt to the organisation which meant our revenue was severely affected. We re-looked at our budget, and re-prioritised certain expenditures taking into account projected revenue, given all the payment holidays that were being requested from as early as April 2020. We also prepared different scenarios and our projections have been very close to the reality of our situation as it stood at the end of March 2021. Importantly, we have continued to support the SMMEs through payment holidays as per our mandate.’
Ithala obtained its accreditation by SAICA to train and develop CA(SA)s during Mnguni’s tenure. Mnguni played a critical role in the accreditation process as his aim is to create new public sector finance professionals which will aid in the professionalisation of the public sector and improve public finance management.
In July 2021 Mnguni was appointed as the CFO of the City of eThekwini. He took over from retiring Kumar, who has been in the role for 40 years. Before this appointment, Mnguni was the group chief financial officer (GCFO) of IDFC and is also a non-executive director of Ithala SOC Limited.
Mnguni sees himself in the public sector for at least the next five years and is not leaving anytime soon. ‘My objective is all about serving the people of South Africa to the best of my ability, backed by the ethics and values that our profession is committed to.’
He says strong management of public finances means more effective and equitable delivery of public services to all. ‘Maximising the effectiveness and efficiency of expenditure means securing the greatest value from these spending decisions and avoiding waste, errors, fraud and corruption.’