Good governance in public schools is essential to ensure that learners receive quality education and that the school operates effectively and efficiently. It ensures that schools are accountable, transparent, and effective in promoting learners’ achievement and success.
In terms of section 23(1) of the South African Schools Act (SASA), the membership of a governing body of an ordinary public school comprises elected members, the principal in his or her official capacity, and co-opted members.
The school governing body (SGB) comprises elected members representing the following groups (SASA section 23(2)):
- Parents of learners at the school
- Educators at the school
- Members of staff at the school who are not educators, and
- Learners in the eighth grade or higher at the school
Unfortunately, in many rural and township schools, the representation for parents of learners at the SGB consists of individuals who lack formal education and are often inexperienced in the effective discharge of the required governance responsibilities. However, this should not be cause for great concern if the allowance provided by SASA for co-opting members into the SGB is used to bring support to the governing body.
Co-opting professionals in a public school can bring several benefits, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Expertise − Professionals from different fields such as finance, law, or education can bring their expertise and knowledge to the governing body. This can help the governing body make informed decisions and develop effective policies.
Diverse perspectives − Having a diverse range of professionals on the governing body can help to bring a range of perspectives and experiences, which can be invaluable in ensuring that the needs of all stakeholders are considered.
- Accountability − Professionals can help to ensure that the governing body is accountable and transparent in its decision-making processes. They can provide independent oversight, ensuring that the governing body is acting in the best interests of the school, its learners and its community.
- Network − Professionals can bring with them a network of contacts and resources that can be useful to the school. For example, a lawyer may have connections with legal experts who can advise on legal matters, while a finance expert may be able to provide access to funding opportunities.
- Learning opportunities − Co-opting professionals onto the governing body can also provide opportunities for learning and development for both the professionals and the other members of the governing body. The sharing of knowledge and experiences can help to improve governance practices and enhance the effectiveness of the governing body.
Overall, co-opting professionals onto SGBs can help to ensure that the schools are well-managed, accountable, and able to provide the best possible education to their learners.
Finance professionals can assist public schools achieve enhanced accountability and good governance through the improvement of the following important elements:
- Establishing a functional finance committee
A finance committee should be established as a sub-committee of the SGB. To ensure that the finance committee, collectively, has the necessary skills and competence to manage the finances of the school as delegated to them by the SGB, consideration should be given to co-opting a qualified finance professional from the community to bring his/her skills and expertise to the committee.
- Developing a financial delegation of authority document
A financial delegation of authority document (DOA) will determine the thresholds for approval of financial transactions and ensure that the school does not get exposed to large transactions without the approval of the key role players. The DOA will provide the threshold for approval by the principal, finance committee and the SGB. The DOA can also address the level of authority required for signing supplier contracts, financial statements and other agreements.
- Developing a finance committee work plan
A finance committee work plan is important to ensure that all key activities of the finance committee are carried out and deadlines are not missed. Some of the key activities that should be included in the schedule are:
- Approval of financial statements for submission to the auditor/examiner by 31 March each year
- Submission of audited/examined financial statements to the provincial education department by 30 June each year
- Preparation of the budget for the next year by the end of October each year
- Presentation of the budget at the annual general meeting (AGM) for approval by parents by the end of November each year
- Appointment/re-appointment of auditor/examiner by the end of November each year
- Submission of the approved budget to the provincial education department by 1 December each year
- Reviewing of management accounts by the finance committee
The income statement, budget variance report, cash flow forecast, creditors ageing, and bank reconciliation are some of the key records that the finance committee must review at least quarterly to ensure that key financial risks and matters are addressed timely.
- Having documented standard operating procedures for each critical finance process
Developing standard operating procedures ensures consistency, compliance with laws and regulations and provides the finance committee with an opportunity to evaluate the sufficiency of the controls in each process.
By serving as co-opted members of governing bodies, professionals can make a positive impact on their community by helping to shape the education and future of local children.
Julius Mojapelo CA(SA), CIA, CRMA, RA