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CIPFA interviewed Botswana’s youngest qualified CIPFA member, Karishma, on what fuelled her interests in public sector accountancy, her experience with CIPFA qualifications and membership and Botswana’s key opportunities in ensuring the deliverance of strong PFM.
How did you first get interested in public sector accountancy?
From the start of my education, I have always been interested in working for public sector organisations, as I believe it would enable me to work with people that want to make a real difference to society. Public sector accountancy is diverse and I believe working within this sector will support my interests in both political and government news.
Could you describe your experiences with CIPFA qualifications/exams/memberships?
I had a great experience studying with CIPFA and completing the journey of my CIPFA qualification and gaining membership. CIPFA provided me with excellent materials for my studies, which resulted in clearing the exams in my very first attempt! I would like to express my sincere gratitude to CIPFA for its online study material and resources that was available to me. I would finally like to say that I’m proud to be a CIPFA member.
What are your career plans now that you are qualified?
I’m determined to embark on a career within the public sector and with an organisation that is truly global – I have always been drawn to working internationally. However, I would like to start off my career in the corporate sector to learn and gain key skills, knowledge and expertise in the in areas of operations, law, finance and communications. I believe this would help me shape myself and my career, which will in turn enable me to be ready to reach and strive to work for the top global institutions.
Can you tell me about public financial management in Botswana and how you think it is currently working?
Public financial management in Botswana is strengthening day by day. However the current socio-economic challenges has played a key role in changing the way public finances are managed. It has been recognised that sound public financial management and optimal utilisation of public resources will result in long term sustainable development. In order to fulfil this, Botswana has implemented public financial management reform programmes that strengthen financial management systems in order to support fiscal discipline, strategic allocation of resources, effective and efficient service delivery and accountability. Among the main partners involved in this programme is the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, who are the key drivers of the reform processes.
What do you think of the way Botswana delivers its public services and processes?
In Botswana, like elsewhere, ensuring that service delivery processes are based on an equilibrium that ensures harmonious relations is an important part of the service delivery structures. This harmony is essential in ensuring that development is not only a progressive process, but also delivered in an atmosphere of tranquillity, with stable values that allow development of public services to be transparent and meaningful to the general public.
What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities to ensuring strong public financial management in Botswana?
In Botswana changing existing governance systems can be challenging, especially if communication of the changes, the reasons behind them, and the planned or expected results to be achieved, are lacking. In fragile and conflict-affected states this can be further complicated by the involvement of international agencies and their relationships with the country’s government, as well as other stakeholders. However, these reforms pose great opportunity as they would allow development partners and countries to share knowledge and experiences, which will in turn strengthen accountability, transparency and PFM in Botswana.
How has Botswana dealt with the new computerised accounting and budgeting systems in public financial management?
Evaluation of the manual and computerised management information systems in the Ministry of Finance and other government entities includes reviewing existing procedures and standards and their compatibility and/or flexibility to integrate and exchange information with new systems. The government of Botswana adopted the public sector accounting system known as Government Accounting and Budgeting System (GABS) as a strategy for improving the financial management procedures in the country.
This adoption came about due to the inherent constraints and disadvantages associated with the previous system that was manually operated. To address the failure of the previous system, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning proposed a new GABS that allowed decentralisation of data entry, reliability, accuracy and generation of timely information and provide additional functionality to work.
The new system was proposed to improve the efficiency of resource management, effectiveness in policy delivery, transparency of information, and accountability of government to the public. Just like other countries, Botswana has previously adopted International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), which introduced accrual accounting for government operation. The system helps the government identify which accounting elements are to be recognised and how they can be measured. However, the new computerised GABS has yet to be set out across the whole country and so it’s currently difficult to scope how well Botswana has dealt with these new systems.