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Municipal employees hit the books to improve skills

Written by Noluthando Mkhize
In March 2012, Pearl Zulu completed a course in municipal finance as part of her internship with the Richards Bay Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal.

“The training has given me a chance to learn how local government works. The first three months of the programme focused on work- place readiness. Some of the modules covered were supply chain management, basic business English and reporting. The programme has a logical training sequence that builds skills,” said Zulu.

She was one of the 1 500 interns recruited by National Treasury and placed at municipalities to undergo 15 months of training.

Zulu, who has a Diploma in Internal Auditing from the Durban University of Technology, is proud of her new skills.

“I am now able to design system description, perform audits…and do risk assessments. I also understand the Municipal Finance Management Act better.”

The SAICA Municipalities Programme is funded by the National Skills Fund of the Department of Higher Education and Training to the tune of R72 million. National Treasury, the South African Institute of Chartered Account- ants (SAICA) and Deloitte Learning Alliance, which conducts training, are all part of the project.

The programme offers on-the-job training to improve the skills and legal compliance of municipal finance officials and in so doing enhance service delivery.

Apart from training for interns, there are modules for chief financial officers, financial managers and financial clerks.

The programme aims to improve the skills and competencies of officials currently employed by municipalities, enable officials to meet the minimum competency requirements and increase capacity in municipalities.

During his 2011/12 budget speech, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Af- fairs Richard Baloyi identified governance and financial management as some of the factors hampering service delivery in municipalities. General manager of the programme Natalie Zimmelman of SAICA said municipalities that wanted to be involved in the programme approached SAICA for assistance.

“They submit a list of people that need to at- tend the programme and it is up to the students whether they attend. We don’t determine the strategy, government develops it. Our job is to implement it working together with National Treasury and its provincial structures,” Zimmelman explained.

Students need to compile a portfolio for the duration of the course. They are also helped along by mentors who visit their districts to assist students with case studies and exercises. National Treasury has a database of unemployed graduates who are recruited as interns and sent to the municipalities.

Zimmelman said some of the factors that contributed to skills shortage at municipalities were unified vacancies, budget constraints and not enough staff in rural areas.

She added that the programme was scheduled according the needs of the municipality.

For more information on the National Treasury Graduate Development Programme visit the website at www.treasury.gov.za or contact SAICA on 08610 72422 or email: saica@saica.co.za