By Fiona Wakelin
Fasset is the Financial and Accounting Services Sector Education and Training Authority. The finance and accounting services sector is particularly important because it is the largest employer of people with financial management, accounting, and auditing skills.
Fasset is a schedule 3a public entity reporting to the Minister of Higher education, Science and Technology, Dr. Blade Nzimande as its executive Authority. Its vision is to facilitate the achievement of world-class finance and accounting skills. Fasset aims to increase the flow of new finance and accountancy entrants into employment, develop and grow the skills required in the sector, and to facilitate transformation of the finance and accountancy sector.
Please give an overview of the history and role of Fasset.
Fasset is a Sectoral Education and Training Authority (Seta) which was established in 2000, currently under the executive authority of Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande. Fasset aims to increase the flow of new finance and accountancy entrants into employment; develop and grow the critical skills required by the sector, as well as the facilitation of transformation in the finance and accountancy sector. In essence, it is responsible for addressing critical skills needed by the finance and accountancy sector.
How did your previous roles as a CFO prepare you for the appointment by the Minister Of Higher Education – as the new CEO of the Financial And Accounting Services Seta (Fasset) in January 2019?
Having been a CFO in public entities, prepared me to take on the role of the Fasset CEO. Decisions I take are mostly informed by the legislative compliance and budgetary requirements, as they pertain to the public sector – such as the PFMA. I am extremely cautious to always exercise due care and sense of accountability, when dealing with taxpayers’ monies, and most importantly, to always take decisions that are in the best interest of the sector and its beneficiaries.
How different was 2019 to 2020 for Fasset? What Covid-related measures did you put in place?
The 2019 year was marked by great strides in fortifying Fasset as a high performing organisation. In essence, 2019 ended with the organisation running at full throttle, and positioned to make 2020 an even greater success. As CEO, I am proud that true to Fasset’s agility, every challenge was innovatively dealt with, forcing us to reassess our strategic plans that were already underway. However, we must thank our stakeholders for being understanding as we re-imagined our skills development deliverables. At times we closed our offices due to Covid-19 positive cases and we had the misfortune of losing an executive member. We have put stringent Covid-19 related measures as per our approved Covid-19 Implementation Plan that is driven by our COVID-19 Task Team. Most of our staff are still working remotely.
What have been your most memorable milestones?
Apart from qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, CA(SA), the memorable milestones have been my appointment into the senior management echelon at the tender age of 28, and CEO before age 40. As a CFO, it has been the attainment of clean audit outcomes. As the CEO of Fasset it is overseeing a drastic shift in our ICT environment to gear up for the 4IR. Lastly, appointments to the Board of a Foundation and Audit Committees of various national departments.
What have been your major challenges and how did you overcome them?
As the CEO of Fasset, gearing up for the new normal and 4IR was a major challenge as most of our processes are still manual and paper-based. And the recruitment of the CIO to drive ICT innovative responses. Also leading Fasset during COVID-19, where most of our employees are working remotely and creating organisational cohesion and responsiveness by the team to achieve set targets. I have started ‘town hall’ meetings with the staff where, as the CEO, I engage on the achievement of our strategic plans.
On a personal front, I contracted Covid-19, and suffered a mild depression. And I lost family and friends due to Covid. Honestly, prayers and my faith in God; the love and support from my children, family and friends assisted. And I also attribute overcoming these challenges to medical attention and strong will power.
What are the trends in terms of young women entering the finance and accounting sector – and how do you position this sector of career choice for prospective learners and entrants, mainly women into the labour market?
Our latest sector skills plan report shows that our sector employs more females (55%). As encouraging as this is, we have uncovered that females remain under- represented at managerial and executive levels at 45% (from 28% since 2001). This points to a continued problem, and a lot still needs to be done in breaking the glass ceiling of executive and strategic participation of women. However, our sector continues to celebrate trailblazers such as Ms. Tsakane Maluleke, Auditor- General, Ms Shirley Mashaba, CEO of PwC, and many more for their followable trail of excellence. Empowerment of young women is alive at Fasset! Our Board Chairperson and majority of board members, and even staff complement, are women. Our funding focus is 54% women and 4% for people with disabilities. Our selling point to learners for our sector is its resilience and the fact that it remains a bedrock of economic activities.
Please describe the work you do as Chairperson for the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities Audit Committee.
It is humbling to be part of the governance oversight structure for this department, whose mandate is to lead on socio-economic, gender equality and emancipation of the vulnerable groups. As the Chairperson of the Audit Committee, my role is to oversee and advise on any financial; compliance and issues; and to assist the department to deliver on its huge mandate. Given the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide, one gets to play a role in advocating for women issues – from governance oversight. I hope to take this advocacy on women issues, such as gender inequality, to the world! Recently, I have been appointed the interim Chairperson of the Audit Committee for the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA).
Congratulations on having your term extended to March 2025. What exciting plans do you have for the next 5 years?
Most of the plans for the next 5 years will be legacy driven – the Finance and Accountancy sector is not yet transformed. Most skills development flagship projects that Fasset will embark on, will be to address transformation and creation of employment. Our sector and the economy at large have been hit hard by the pandemic. Fasset continues to contribute towards the Skills Strategy, based on the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan by the President.
Do you prefer reading online or hard copy? Who are your 3 favourite authors and what are you reading at the moment?
I prefer reading online, with the exception of books – I still enjoy the touch and feel of a book. My favourite authors are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dr Myles Munroe and Robin Sharma. I am currently reading Becoming by Michelle Obama, Spirit of Leadership by Dr Myles Munroe, and next up on my list is The 5am Club by Robin Sharma.
What message do you have for young women out there who are struggling to survive?
Your strength and success come from your struggles and hardships. Continue to dream big and follow your dreams for they know the way. I am convinced that it’s the era of women to not just survive, but take up spaces and SOAR! If a girl like me, from a township, can be a CEO, then any young girl can be. Do not give up!
*Interested in discovering more inspiring stores about Top Women? Check out the 16th edition of the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication on Issuu – Digital Publishing Platform – here.