With their expertise in financial management, compliance and risk assessment, CAs(SA) like Amanda Zuma play a crucial role in ensuring efficient resource utilisation and improving service delivery.
By encouraging disadvantaged students to become chartered accountants, teachers aim to provide them with a clear and attainable career path that can lead to economic stability, personal growth, and the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on both their own lives and their communities.
As a Vukuzakhe High School learner in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal, Amanda Zuma didn’t know what a chartered accountant was, but she listened to the advice of a highly respected teacher. ‘She started sending me to school camps hosted by SAICA, accounting firms and other big companies. I spoke to a lot of young CAs(SA) whose lives had been changed. My marks were good, and the idea sounded appealing to me.’
Because she had never left KZN, Amanda was keen to study at the University of Cape Town, but funding was not available. She was not even able to pay for her first year of studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and it was only when she was allowed to register for second year that she knew she had passed.
Nevertheless, she soldiered on even as she was always afraid that she was going to be booted out of the system. Then in third year her good marks paid off, and she was awarded a partial bursary by food and beverages group Clover, followed by funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). This gave her the means to complete her degree.
‘I joined PwC in Pretoria for my articles and moved to a city where I knew nothing and no-one other than the friend of a cousin. But I was excited to get out of Durban for the first time and to see what was out there in the world. It was a massive adjustment, but the firm’s onboarding programme was a great help, enabling us to build a network of relationships as well as providing us with useful information on Pretoria, and finding accommodation and all sorts of practical advice which helped to ease the transition.’
During her second year of articles, she returned to her home province, moving to PwC in Pietermaritzburg. From there she joined the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) as an assistant audit manager, which is where, Amanda says, she really learnt all about auditing in the public sector.
‘It was an incredible opportunity for me to see how things work on the ground, and I saw it as an opportunity for me to grow as a professional, and to contribute to improving the public service in the province,’ she says. ‘Working for the AGSA offers a unique perspective on financial management, accountability, and governance practices within government organisations. You have the opportunity to examine a wide range of government entities and programs, which exposed me to diverse industries, financial operations, and organisational structures. One of the biggest benefits was learning all about the economy and how it runs.’
Because government collaborates with private sector companies to access expertise, efficiency and innovation, CAs(SA) like Amanda, who work in the public sector, continue to be exposed to industry resources, technology, and specialised knowledge to improve service delivery and address gaps in public sector capabilities.
‘Service delivery is critical in South Africa to address socioeconomic disparities, drive social cohesion, promote economic development, enhance government accountability, and address historical injustices,’ says Amanda.
Knowing that her work is key to building a more equitable and inclusive society is incredibly important for her, given her roots. It’s easy to take service delivery for granted, but to meet the needs of the poorest of the poor requires a tax system that pays for infrastructure development, healthcare, education, social welfare programmes, and basic services. Tax revenue is essential for government to fulfil its responsibilities and meet the needs of its citizens.
In her current role as CFO of the Ray Nkonyeni Local Municipality on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, which she took on in 2021, she has seen how the lack of sound financial management in municipalities has a negative impact on crucial expenditure such as infrastructure repairs and maintenance – which puts the brakes on the delivery of services.
‘There is a severe shortage of skills in the public sectors, and we need more young professionals to help address the many problems that have plagued government for so many years,’ she says. ‘We need more CAs(SA) to ensure efficient and responsible use of resources within government organisations, and to identify areas of improvement or potential risks,’ Amanda says.
‘Because working in the public sector is viewed as less prestigious, we lose out on professionals with strong analytical and strategic skills that are valuable in financial planning and analysis. Imagine what could be achieved with people on board who can help establish strong financial governance frameworks, implement sound accounting practices, and enhance financial transparency. The public sector needs to regain public trust. We can only do that by ensuring accurate financial reporting and demonstrating responsible financial management.’
Amanda concludes: ‘Those who apply their expertise, passion, and professional ethics to the public sector can be a driving force in shaping financial management practices, ensuring transparency, and fostering accountability in government organisations.’