As the South African accounting profession 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 grows. 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? Motlatsi Donald Thoahlane (29) explains his decision.
Twenty years ago Thoahlane was a nine-year-old tyke navigating his primary school days in the Free State, while the world’s IT engineers grappled with ones and zeroes during the 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, armed with a Bachelor in Accounting and Bachelor in Accounting Honours from the University of the Free State. He also holds the prestigious designation of being a qualified SAICA-registered Associate General Accountant AGA(SA), with over six years of experience as a tax auditor and as an internal and external auditor.
Born of teacher parents in the township of Botshabelo, 45km east of the city of roses, he initially wanted to follow in their footsteps: “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 not follow the tantalising private sector path? “I was given the opportunity to serve my articles at the Auditor General’s offices and that journey, it could be said, is where I learned a lot about public finances, while developing a preference 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 his articles, he also led a number of teams.
Regarding the ruckus of national government’s struggles with corruption — more so with the recent PPE procurements scandals — we didn’t hesitate to ask if it’s difficult for public sector accounting professionals to resist the urge to go rogue? Thoahlane describes himself as man of integrity, and says that the choice should be an easy one for accountants, who have pledged their willingness to uphold the expectations of being a member of SAICA and its code of ethics. He’s also developed a passion for the public sector, which rewards diligent workers with the satisfaction and pride of serving the country and her people to the best of their abilities.
Asked for sage advice to a generation of younger and upcoming accounting professionals, he says they shouldn’t despair when looking at the economic woes and high unemployment rate the country is struggling 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,” adds 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 pursuing his enthusiasm for serving society. He loves aviation, and also mentions that his days as a bachelor are numbered as he’d like to tie the knot in a few years’ time.
Motlatsi Thoahlane’s first name loosely translates to “the multiplier”, 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.