South Africa’s first woman deputy auditor-general, Tsakani Ratsela. (Image: Auditor-General South Africa)
Tsakani Ratsela, the first woman to be appointed national deputy auditor-general (AG), says her goal is to “develop a cadre of professional auditors”. In taking up the position, she assures South Africans that they will “continue to see a very high quality of service from our office”.
On 1 April, Ratsela officially started her term as chief executive of the country’s supreme audit institution. She credits her background for her success: “I was strongly encouraged by my father, a lawyer, to study for a BCom at the University of Cape Town. And it was during my university holidays when I worked at accounting firms that I got to understand a bit more about the accountancy profession as a qualification, about the shortage of black people who enter the profession and the difficulties black people experience with the barrier of passing the board exam.
“It was also during this period that I heard about Nonkululeko Gobodo, the first African woman to become a chartered accountant and now the chair of accounting firm SizweNtsalubaGobodo.”
Inspired by Gobodo, she says, she decided she too was going to qualify as a chartered accountant (CA). “I finished university and came back to Johannesburg to finish my articles with PricewaterhouseCoopers. I passed my board exams and qualified as a CA.” From there, she chose jobs that gave her the opportunity “to make a difference, a real contribution. So much of the work I did in the public and private sectors has led to this role [as deputy AG].”
Before her promotion she spent two years as the national leader of audit services at the AG. It has been a good fit: Ratsela points out that working for the AG has enabled her to realise her ambition of contributing towards a better South Africa, and given her the space to practise her “professional excellence to succeed” in what she does best – auditing.
With her lawyer father and teacher mother as her role models, she adds that it is “commitment to excellence, perseverance and a passion for what I do that has got me to where I am today”.
The AG’s office
Working alongside the AG, Kimi Makwetu, Ratselas says she is “deeply committed to serving her country to the best of her ability”. Her goal as the deputy AG “is to develop a cadre of professional auditors”.
“The office has done very well in conducting close on 1 000 audits. We do all sorts of analyses on the outcomes of the audits and spend a lot of time with our audit team. Our audits are of a very high quality and standard, and are comparable to the best in the world.
“We have close on 500 chartered accountants in the AG office who play a big a role in ensuring our audits maintain a high standard. We use our skills to give the government, parliament and citizens the type of information that they can act on, to create a country where citizens have the benefit of a government that they know is accountable, capable, and truly represents their interests, and can enjoy the benefits of having a strong audit office.”
Ratsela is also the accounting officer and chief executive of the Office of the AG and is responsible for providing the strategy direction and oversight, “essentially… guiding a very strong leadership team in the organisation”.
The partnership between her and Makwetu is tantamount. “I share the responsibilities he has around managing stakeholders externally, around managing all three spheres of government and responsibilities in the international arena as well. We are members of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (Intosai), a worldwide affiliation of governmental entities. Its members are the auditor-general offices of nations.
“The AG is called the supreme audit institution of the country because we were founded through the Constitution, and we have a constitutional mandate to support, and that’s similar to other offices in the rest of the world. At Intosai we learn from each other, we share experiences, we drive the type of initiatives that build the capacity of our various offices. We try to improve the standards of what we all do. The office has responsibilities at Intosai – our AG is also the chairman of the capacity building committee, an important strategic committee.
“So we have responsibilities which stretch globally, to the continent and the region, all of which require time and effort. So it’s really about partnering the AG and ensuring that we do deliver on the mandate, and that we work as a team… I can assure stakeholders they’ll continue to see a very high quality of service from our office. The process is about driving increasing intensity in what we do, so that we can heighten the impact of what we achieve in promoting democracy,” Ratsela says.
A Chapter Nine institution
The Office of the AG is a Chapter Nine institution. These were established after the country’s Constitution came into effect in February 1997. This means that the AG operates independently of the government and any political party. According to the Constitution, the AG is required to report on the finances of all national, provincial and local government administrations. It has the discretion to audit any institution that receives money from the public, and its reports must be made public.
According to its website, the Office of the AG, which was established in 1911, “has a constitutional mandate and as the supreme audit institution of South Africa, exists to strengthen the country’s democracy by enabling oversight, accountability and governance in the public sector through auditing, thereby building public confidence”.
Ratsela joins other women in leadership positions in the country’s Chapter Nine institutions: Thuli Madonsela, the public protector; and Pansy Tlakula, the head of the Independent Electoral Committee; as well as deputy chairs: Dr Pregaluxmi Govender of the Human Rights Commission; Thoko Mpumlwana of the Commission for Gender Equality; and Julia Helen Mabale of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities.