In a world where numbers and spreadsheets often hold the key to financial success, there’s a unique story that beautifully weaves together not only the intricacies of balance sheets but also the delicate threads of love and companionship. Meet Ebrahim Tootla and his wife Aarifah – a power couple whose journey is a testament to the magic that unfolds when two chartered accountants find their hearts entwined amidst the world of ledgers and equations.
Training offices give aspiring chartered accountants the opportunity to gain practical experience and apply their theoretical knowledge in real-world scenarios, enabling them to develop professional competence in financial regulations, tax laws, accounting standards, and auditing procedures. They learn how to manage multiple client interactions, work in teams, meet deadlines, and tackle complex financial tasks. They are also exposed to a wide range of industries and sectors.
That’s what motivated Moses Tshitangano CA(SA), Chief Audit Executive at Limpopo Provincial Treasury, to turn the entity into an accredited SAICA training office for future CAs(SA).
‘When the Limpopo provincial government was in a deep financial crisis toward the end of 2011, it was placed under administration by the Cabinet,’ Moses says. ‘The lack of skills in the province exacerbated the crisis. In 2019, as a contractor to Treasury, we gained accreditation and began by providing a three-year training programme in financial management, decision-making, and control for five resilient and highly driven CTA graduates from the University of Limpopo, in partnership with the Thuthuka Education Upliftment Fund. Since then, we have grown every year.’
Among the many benefits of working at the Treasury is that trainees become flexible generalists who have been exposed to multiple sectors, often external to government administration. The Treasury allocates financial resources to departments and entities throughout the province and is obligated by the Public Finance Management Act to provide oversight and monitor how those allocated resources are applied. This makes for a challenging and fulfilling training environment for trainee CAs(SA).
The programme is geared to provide access to diverse matters of practical financial management and control, and an opportunity to apply knowledge in a wide-ranging financial reporting framework. Candidates acquire knowledge and insights into verticals like healthcare, manufacturing, agriculture and more.
The Treasury also oversees the Limpopo Province pharmaceutical depot and has to ensure compliance with financial regulations and reporting requirements. This adds complexity to the financial management, requiring accurate record-keeping, financial controls, and rigorous auditing processes. In addition, it oversees reporting for Polokwane International Airport, and also has oversight of a large portfolio of commercial investment properties through the Limpopo Economic Development Agency (LEDA).
‘By acquiring knowledge and expertise in development finance, our trainees learn to contribute to the success of development projects and ensure accountability and sustainability in the use of funds for social and economic development,’ says Moses. ‘We run large projects to build roads, infrastructure, schools and healthcare centres, as well as managing the reporting for all the departments that run large transport fleets. It’s interesting for our trainees to be exposed to the challenges that come with these different responsibilities.’
It deserves special mention that the Limpopo Provincial Treasury was not geared up to be a training facility. Despite the lack of training partners, managers and supervisors, under Moses’s leadership it has built sufficient capacity to overcome these challenges.
‘We started from a zero base with none of the resources available in wealthier provinces,’ says Moses. ‘We simply used our experience as professionals to build the programme so that we could develop the skills we need for a functional province and give the trainees what they need to go out into the world as qualified professionals.’
Having gone through the first round of training, the programme has been refined and Moses is seeking to partner with equally ambitious companies and entities in the province who are committed to investing in skills. ’We are planning to grow the number of trainees to 20, and we will require strengthening in the areas of reviews, mentoring, evaluation, and assessment. Having outlined our expectations, we are ready to welcome extra hands,’ he adds.
Moses says he has been humbled to witness the 100% success rate of the first batch of trainees, and the number of people who are keen to join the programme. ‘What excites me is watching the evolution of trainees from first interview to their status as qualified professionals who can diagnose issues, make recommendations and offer solutions to the many issues we encounter at provincial level.’
One successful trainee, Shephard Matsebe, remembers joining the programme just as the COVID-19 lockdown was announced. ‘Thanks to our training officer, who quickly ensured that we could learn and work from home, we were quickly up to speed. The difference in my knowledge from first to second year was remarkable, and it has been a great experience for all of us.’
Trainee Mmasechaba Kgosana said she was ready for something challenging, and also wanted to make an impact on society. ‘Being in the public sector has enabled me to learn about proper management of public funds, transparency, accountability, and good governance,’ she says.
‘Strengthening our financial systems is in the public interest, and ensures that taxpayer money is used efficiently, ethically, and in alignment with the needs of the community. I have also had the opportunity to work with amazing professional people who want to make government better. This has been inspiring and has changed my perception of the public sector.’