shna Prithiraj is on a mission to encourage tertiary institutions to elevate public sector financial management, and professionalise work-based training and learning to increase the number of financial management graduates joining the public sector.
I am the director of financial management capacity building.
I am a chartered accountant (CA) and a master of business administration graduate.
I am involved in a project to professionalise public financial management and create public sector finance professionals. My job is to nicely nudge and cajole tertiary institutions to elevate public sector financial management in their curriculums.
Universities and many tertiary institutions teach mostly financial management in the private sector, and the public sector is hardly mentioned in financial training. They talk less of the public service and more of the private sector.
With more than 200 municipalities, 34 government departments and nine provincial departments, excluding state-owned entities, the public sector is the biggest employer of finance professionals. The need is great, but the skills are lacking. There is a shortage of financial management graduates joining the public sector.
Because tertiary institutions are not putting the public service into the minds of accounting graduates. Even the curriculum is biased towards the private sector. One of the biggest challenges for all qualified CAs is that they are not exposed to legislation and regulation pertaining to the public sector, like the Public Finance Management Act and the Municipal Finance Management Act.
For example, at university, we were previously taught Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and now emphasis is directed at International Financial Reporting Standards.
I only became aware of Generally Regulated Accounting Practice, the Public Finance Management Act and the Municipal Finance Management Act when I joined the public sector.
I am designing professionalisation programmes with national qualifications organisations such as the SA Qualifications Authority and professional bodies such as the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Association of Accounting Technicians, the Institute of Internal Auditors, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and The Institute for Risk Management SA.
This means financial managers who enhance their skills in the workplace could in future receive an accredited qualification with a professional designation.
For public finance management professionalisation, consideration is given to the different maturity status and requirements of nine financial disciplines existent within the public financial management sector.
The nine public finance management disciplines are: management accounting, revenue management, expenditure management, asset management (moveable and immovable), financial accounting, supply chain management, internal control, enterprise risk management and internal audit.
I am working with all tertiary institutions to continuously promote the public sector as a good place to work, while simultaneously trying to shift the culture of the public sector towards excellence and performance.
The Treasury and the Office of the Accountant-General can make significant contributions to the effective performance of employees by paying specific attention to how workplace-based training is included in the curriculum of qualifications.
The most important of these are the nature and organisation of the work in the public institutions, how the work is structured and allocated to trainees, the support and constructive feedback trainees receive from co-workers and mentors, the perception of a job as meaningful and the complexity of the job.
Also, to remain relevant, financial managers must keep abreast with the changes and encourage the development of financial management standards that fit both the needs of public financial information users and the realities of our economy.
I am passionate about what I do. I am fortunate to have the support of the Treasury and the Office of the Accountant-General.
Ashna Prithiraj is director of financial management capacity building at the Office of the Accountant-General