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Serve up the skills, solve service delivery

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Serve up the skills, solve service delivery

Supporting proven programmes can solve the public sector’s skills shortage in five to ten years

Government’s mission is to deliver on its objectives to improve the lives of its citizens. Its greatest challenge, however, is developing the financial management and governance skills to ensure budgets are spent effectively.

The notion of acquiring skills through the revolving door simply isn’t sustainable. When a Chief Financial Officer moves from one post to another, one department’s gain is another department’s loss.


Of course the problem isn’t confined to a shortage of Chartered Accountants, or CAs(SA). The public sector is similarly beset by a skills shortage in the medical, engineering and scientific professions.


Can Government attract, afford and retain the business skills it requires? Most certainly it can. So too can provincial and local government. Where there’s a will there is always a way.


CAs(SA) are key to service delivery

Within Education there are clearly efforts to fix the problem South Africa faces, but it takes a dozen years to produce a Matric and a further seven years to produce a CA(SA). The country just can’t wait another 20 years to get the next generation of recruits into the system.


Fortunately the private and public sectors have already developed a proven formula that can fast-track enough high-performing Maths students to solve our public sector accounting skills problem within a generation. All it needs is the continued cooperation of these sectors, and a public sector that recognises the gap, and grasps the nettle. Happily this process has started.


Should Government at all levels – not merely in Education – take the resolve to invest in skills, as I predict it soon will, the public sector will start to really make an impact in terms of service delivery.


Already, some municipalities and public institutions have recognised the problem and they have committed significant amounts of money to bursaries.


KZN leads the charge

KwaZulu-Natal’s MEC for Finance, Ina Cronje, is spearheading a great example of how municipalities can upskill themselves via private-public sector projects.


Through the Thuthuka Bursary Fund, the KZN Provincial Government has committedtens of millions of rands to ensuring that hundreds of promising learners gain access to a high-quality and revolutionary undergraduate degree programme. It’s the first step to turning them into fully fledged CAs(SA).


Recruiting talented but deserving students from far flung municipalities and easing them through the bursary programme will produce a number of CAs(SA) in rural KZN every year. This will make an incredible difference to the outlying rural communities.


The challenge, of course, is to ensure that other provinces, Government departments and parastatals do the same thing, and that they do it quickly.


All we need to do is create an environment within the public sector in which young CAs(SA) know that they will be financially rewarded and have an opportunity to grow their careers, just as they can in the private sector.


The magic formula

Through its Thuthuka programme, the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) is playing a considerable role in identifying and enabling bright young talent.


This is a great example of what is possible when South Africans who are dedicated to a common objective work together.


Thuthuka is a unique bursary fund programme for African and coloured Chartered Accountancy students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It covers tuition, books, meals, mentoring and res fees and accommodation, and even provides students with an allowance.


Thuthuka is now a tried and tested mechanism. For every rand donated by the private or public sector, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme matches that contribution.


The formula works well for the students and the universities, and for the administrators and funders. More importantly it’s an already proven mechanism to alleviate the public sector skills shortage quickly.


Crucially, Thuthuka has the capacity to absorb a lot more funding and drive yet greater success.


It’s the formula that could address the skills gap and restore the health of public sector finances. And with strong administration, strong service delivery will surely follow.


The time is now

The proven success of private-public sector collaborations such as Thuthuka shows us that we can address the skills crisis in Government. It should take between five and ten years to establish a sustainable skills base – after that, we just need to keep replenishing the skills.


I am suggesting that if we use the Thuthuka model for other professions, then we should be able to stop blaming slow delivery on the shortage of skills.


And in developing their own programmes, if more professions could pool their energies at school level as SAICA does to more widely promote Maths, it would help South Africa’s cause tremendously.


It is really a no-brainer. Remember that for all funds raised for Thuthuka – from both the private and the public sector – the Minister of Higher Education & Training, Blade Nzimande, matches every penny with National Student Financial Aid Scheme funds.


Let us stop focusing on whom to blame for our woes and get on with their resolution. The answers lie within our grasp. Our country deserves this.


For more information on how you can get involved in the Thuthuka Bursary Fund, contact Nthato Selebi on 011 621 6600 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or visit


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