I always lead the charge, says Musa Magongo, CFO of SWACAA

“The time has come for the CFO to become an important executive member who pushes for value creation other than the normal traditional financial role,” says Musa Magongo, CFO of the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA). “The CFO is expected to have a better understanding of the impact of each process, whether commercial or operational, and be able to provide the necessary advice and guidance to the technical team.” In his role, Musa oversees all of the financial management issues of SWACAA, from budget preparation and implementation to monitoring, treasury and reporting. While this includes a focus on both finance and strategy, he says the nature of the role means he spends a greater proportion of his time on strategy, and ensuring that the organisation’s overall strategy is implemented.

How did you come to work in finance?
"I always imagined myself being where things are happening and I wanted to be one of the key drivers of production efficiency. I was introduced to accounting when I started high school and was fascinated by the fact that accountants are the ones 'holding the purse' - I just loved that. The ultimate goal was being a chartered accountant, so when I started tertiary education, I made this my goal - to qualify as a CA."

What are you busy with at the moment?
"We are currently working on the 2017 audit, as our year end is 31 March. So, we need to have finalised the financial statements by 30 September in order to comply with the Public Enterprise Act."

Tell us about your team - how large is it, what are its strengths and weaknesses?
"The finance portfolio compromises the accounting team, which is made up of nine members, and the procurement team, which has three members, so we are 13 in total. The team includes fairly young professionals, 40 percent of whom have their first degree and have enrolled for professional examinations (ACCA). 15 percent have already qualified with the ACCA designation and the remaining 45 percent are still pursuing their degrees part-time.""Our weakness is that most of the team members don't have private sector experience, which comes with exposure to different work environments, but I am happy that it's a team with the right attitude to learn and develop themselves in their careers."

What are our leadership traits? How do you get the best out of your team?
"I have a strong ability to lead finance transformation or other change management processes, to take on the business partnering role and to get involved in strategic planning. I am also good at building effective relationships, including with the board, securing operational roles with customers, and building experience across the value chain, including front office, back office and suppliers."

"When it comes to getting the best out of my team, I believe in developing the vision and clearly stating where we want to go as a department, in alignment with the organisational strategy. I then work hard to sell this vision, to take the energy and commitment and ensure that everyone understands the ultimate goal. I am also focused on finding the way forwards - as a strategy is rolled out, so there will be bottlenecks, but we always ensure that there is a way forward despite these obstacles. Finally, I always lead the charge, ensuring that we remain upfront and central during action."

What does the organisation's risk register look like? What are the key concerns and what strategies are in place around these?
"The aviation industry is capital intensive and unfortunately at the moment we are 90 percent dependant on the government subvention, therefore we sometimes face cashflow challenges, as the economy is Swaziland is not stable. Operational risk is also high in this industry due to the nature of our work. The biggest challenge is that SWACAA is responsible for operating the country's two airports while simultaneously standing as the regulator of the aviation industry in Swaziland. The strategy we've put in place was to restructure the organisation and establish a clear 'red line' on the two roles.
"Also, Swaziland lags behind in reaching full compliance with International Civil Aviation Organisation Standards and Recommended Practices (ICAO SARPS). However, we have a clear plan in place and believe that in the next audit we will be above 60 percent implementation."

What is the regulatory environment like in Swaziland and how does this affect the organisation?
"Our financial statements and results of our operations and cash flows are prepared in conformity with the International Financial Reporting Standards and in a manner required by The Civil Aviation Act, 2009. The regulatory role as far as finance and operations is concerned is done by the Public Enterprise Unit through The Public Enterprises (Control and Monitoring) Act, 1989, housed at the Ministry of Finance. The environment is very conducive to our operations. In terms of the Aviation Regulations, we are operating under the ICAO guidance and the compliance rate has really improved, hence the EU Ban was lifted in 2015."

Times are tough right now. How does the current economic situation in SA and globally affect the organisation and how do you mitigate this?
"Indeed, times are tough and since we are operating in the same Common Monetary Area (CMA) as South Africa, whatever negative economic effect happens in South Africa, we in Swaziland are affected. Furthermore, since South Africa is the 'big brother', we are somehow interlinked."

"SWACAA makes about 20 percent of its income through aviation-related activities (aeronautical revenue like passenger fees, airport tax, landing fees, over flight fees, etc), so, if the economy is not doing well, less people opt for air travel and therefore less income will be realised by institutions like us."

How valuable do you believe it is for a CFO to be operationally and commercially savvy? What benefit does this bring to the organisation and the role?
"Over the years, the role of the CFO has moved from being a 'number crunching guru' to a key business strategist in an organisation and therefore operational and commercial issues are supposed to be at the figure tip of the CFO. The time has come for the CFO to become an important executive member who pushes for value creation other than the normal traditional financial role. Also, the CFO is expected to have a better understanding of the impact of each process, whether commercial or operational, and be able to provide the necessary advice and guidance to the technical team."