As the accounting profession in South Africa evolves with each new day that dawns, the sector also welcomes new talent into its ranks. The numerous training programs afforded by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) is evidence that the industry is always churning out fresher, younger minds as the profession continues to grow. But with so many opportunities to work in the lucrative private sector, why then would a young professional choose to devote his career to serving others by working in the public sector? 29-year old, Motlatsi Donald Thoahlane explains his decision.
20-years ago the Free State born Thoahlane was a 9-year old tyke navigating his primary school days when the world’s IT engineers grappled with ones-and-zeroes during the famous Y2K systems pandemic. Today, he’s all grown up and working with big numbers as a tax auditor for the South African Revenue Services (SARS) at its Durban offices (KwaZulu-Natal) armed with a Bachelor in Accounting (B.Acc) and Bachelor in Accounting (Hons) (B.Com Hons) degrees from the University of the Free State in 2013 carrying the prestigious designation of qualified SAICA-registered Associate General Accountant AGA(SA) with over six years of experience as a tax auditor as well as internal and external auditor.
Born of teacher parents in the township of Botshabelo, some 45km east of the city of roses, he says he initially wanted to follow in the footsteps of his parents. He describes them as fully supportive of his career ventures.
“My father was the one who discouraged me from taking the teacher college route. He believed that the career I should pursue after matriculating should be dictated to by the subjects where I’d scored highly in my examinations, which happened to be commercial subjects,” says the AGA(SA).
So why then did he choose to go the public sector route instead of the ever-tantalising private sector path? “I was given the opportunity to serve my articles at the Auditor General offices and from that journey, it could be said, this is where I learned a lot about public finances while developing preferences for working in the public sector,” says Thoahlane. He’s been a team leader of different audit clients during his articles and post articles. After serving articles he also led a number of teams.
Taking advantage of the current ruckus in national government struggles with corruption, more so with the latest PPE procurements scandals, we don’t hesitate and ask if at all it’s difficult for public sector accounting professionals to resist the urge or pressure to go rouge?
Thoahlane describes himself as man of integrity and says that the choice should be an easy one for accountants who delight themselves with having pledged their willingness to uphold the expectations of being a member of SAICA and its code of ethics.
Also having developed a passion for the public sector, which rewards the diligent worker with the satisfaction and pride of serving the country and her people to the best of their abilities, is an achievement worth the effort.
He is also an aviation fanatic who admits to spending a lot of his free time searching the web for videos of aircraft or, vicariously living his love of flight through a flight simulator on his laptop. He loves to travel in planes.
Asking for sage advice to a generation of younger and upcoming accounting professionals, he says they shouldn’t despair looking at the current economic woes and high unemployment rate the country still struggles with. “Studying accounting opens you up to a wide net of work opportunities and thus there will always be employment opportunities in the finance industry. It’s virtually guaranteed. In addition, belonging to a professional body like SAICA also cements your value in the eyes of potential clients,” says the young professional.
“Seeing that we’ve also just celebrated women’s month, I’d also like to take the opportunity to urge all of the women to pursue their dreams without fear or intimidation. They must stand their ground against any bullies,” added Thoahlane.
Having started work at SARS only in 2018, he says his current career plans include staying on a few more years to polish his craft and carrying out his enthusiasm for serving society. He also mentions that his days as a bachelor are numbered as he’d like to tie the knot in a few years’ time.
In Motlatsi Thoahlane, whose first name loosely translates to the ‘multiplier’, and which rather quite apt for his chosen career path, if he is to be used as a yardstick of the calibre of sharp, passionate and compassionate public accountants coming through the ranks, we can be confident that the future prospects of the accounting profession look mighty fine.