In 2010 Yvonne Chetty became the first female chief financial officer (CFO) at the Department of Energy, previously part of the combined Department of Minerals & Energy. She still holds the post after almost a decade, and has a clear overview of what is required of a public servant; she is also often a mentor for others.
“My passion for educating, training and developing people around me has opened doors for my work colleagues, and sometimes their kids also tend to gravitate towards me for advice, especially around academic issues,” says Chetty, who originally hails from Chatsworth, Durban.
“My role is to ensure adherence to the legislation relevant to budgeting, accounting, financial reporting and governance as per the Constitution of South Africa, the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), Treasury Regulations, the Division of Revenue Act and any other legislation or regulations issued.”
She chairs the department’s bid adjudication committee and says as CFO her essential function is to assist the accounting officer in carrying out financial management responsibilities in areas ranging from supply chain management and budget preparation to financial reporting and the development of maintaining internal control policies and procedures.
Chetty and her team are involved in and support projects related to the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) — the updated energy plan for the country for 2010-2030, directed by the National Development Plan, which identifies energy infrastructure as a critical component underpinning economic activity and growth.
She explains that as a public servant she’s motivated by the recognition of the public sector by a respected professional accounting body such as SAICA. “Public servants have years of invaluable experience and SAICA has gone further in appreciating prior learning. This inspires me to encourage fellow colleagues to also become Associated General Accountants South Africa [AGA(SA)]. I also serve on the sub-committee at SAICA for AGAs — the committee that helps advance public sector recognition. Being affiliated to a professional body makes providing expert guidance and support that much easier.”
Chetty explains why this is so important: “Members of the public, political parties, investors, credit rating agencies, law enforcement agencies and others are calling for better public management, committed to good governance free from fraud and corruption. For the private sector to contribute to the alleviation of the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality, it requires government to effectively and efficiently respond to the needs of people and account to the taxpayers. If indeed we need to have a good public service, we need to rethink some of our promises made to members of the public and assess our responses in fulfilling them. Politicians and management within the public service are jointly responsible for the accomplishment of the stated goals and objectives in their plans.”
This is particularly important in view of the fact that the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) reported little improvement in the 2018-19 Public Finance Management Act audit outcomes, noting an increase in irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
“In an era where financial management in the public sector is seen to be weak, public entities that have strong financial management are forgotten; SAICA recognises departments and public entities that excel in public finance management by awarding them with the Excellence in Public Finance Management Awards.”
Before joining the Department of Minerals and Energy, Chetty was previously employed at Ernst & Young, SA Breweries, Wits University and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa. She holds a National Diploma in Business Management, a BCompt (Hons) and a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA). She will soon be working on a PhD focused on the energy sector.
Outside of the office, she enjoys reading, floral art, event management and home décor. She was nominated in 2016 and 2017 as Public Sector Chief Financial Officer by CFO South Africa.
The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), South Africa’s preeminent accountancy body, is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading accounting institutes. The Institute provides a wide range of support services to more than 50 000 members and associates who are chartered accountants (CAs[SA]), as well as associate general accountants (AGAs[SA]) and accounting technicians (ATs[SA]). They hold positions as CEOs, MDs, board directors, business owners, CFOs, auditors and leaders in every sphere of commerce and industry, and play a significant role in the nation’s highly dynamic business sector and economic development.