Innocent Gumbochuma: The 'finance truth-teller'

ACCA-qualified Innocent Gumbochuma runs his public sector organisation with a strong private-sector orientation.

As the ACCA-qualified CFO of the Quality Council of Trades and Occupations (QCTO) Innocent Gumbochumba plays an integral role in the continued success of his organisation.  The QCTO was established in 2010 to oversee the design, implementation, assessment of occupational qualifications including trades. 

Innocent has worked at the QCTO for over seven years, a tenure he attributes to the strong, positive culture of the organisation. “I’m proud to have contributed to the culture of the organisation. We may be a public entity, but we have a strong private sector orientation in our work ethic. This means that people can come up with ideas to help the organisation. It’s an organisation where people can shine and be rewarded,” says Innocent. 

He joined the organisation in 2013 as the director of finance and procurement, where he set up the finance function. He was promoted to CFO in June 2018. Today, Innocent leads a team of 12 people across finance and procurement.

As a public body, the QCTO also operates in a highly regulated environment in which executives must report into parliament. This means that Innocent may be called on to answer challenging financial questions from parliamentary oversight committees. 

For Innocent, the key challenge in his role is being the ‘finance truth-teller’ in the organisation. “Everyone has a wish list of what they would like to achieve. I must apply my mind and say ‘no’ often. As the enforcer of the budget, I’m not always popular within the organisation but for me the work I do is not a popularity contest.” 

The modern CFO

Innocent believes that today’s CFO needs to be a trusted advisor to the business with a holistic understanding of the entire organisation. This includes having a good grasp on strategy, sales, IT and production. “The modern CFO should be able to step into the CEO’s role quite easily. You can’t just be focused on finance; you need to know what is happening across the organisation and ultimately what drives the organisation. Too many CFOs are focussed on their finance to-do lists and rarely take the time to look at the bigger picture,” says Innocent. 

The impact of Covid-19 

Covid-19 has negatively affected the organisation in its revenue collections. If many businesses close in the coming months, the outlook for receiving skills levies is not positive. Currently QCTO is also not able to make physical site visits to accredit skills development providers.

Over the past few months, Innocent has been preoccupied by finding innovative ways to reengineer the organisation and recover revenue. “When there are storms, you really see the strength of the sailor. We have had to reflect on what is really important, reallocate the budget and cut down on the budget items that don’t add value,” says Innocent.

In other ways, the organisation is weathering Covid-19 well. The organisation shifted to a work from home environment quickly and is developing a system to do a temporary virtual accreditation of training providers. Innocent attributes this success to the organisation’s forward-thinking approach: “You have to lead from the front. You can’t be reactive; you need to be proactive.” 

An ACCA advocate 

Innocent has a natural aptitude for accounting. “I was inspired to study accounting by my Grade 10 teacher. I wasn’t learning accounting, but I sat for a test and achieved 100 percent. I was determined to prove that this wasn’t a fluke. I took up accounting and quickly realised that I wanted to pursue this as a career.” 

When Innocent immigrated to South Africa from Zimbabwe in 2005, he began investigating his study options. The ACCA qualification appealed to him as it has global relevance and would provide career options should he want to relocate anywhere in the world. “My research indicated that many key international finance leaders are ACCA qualified. The ACCA brand comes with huge integrity,” he adds.  

He also appreciated the flexibility of the qualification allowing him to work and study at the same time. “It is not easy to study and work at the same time. The ACCA qualification is a challenging qualification to complete.  I spent many nights awake studying for exams.”

Today he values the competitive edge that the ACCA qualification has given him as well as the ongoing networking opportunities. 
An established finance career  

Innocent has spent more than 17 years building his career in finance. Before joining the QCTO, he served as the  manager for finance and supply chain at Umalusi for four and half years. He has also served in various finance roles with NMB Technologies, SAB miller, Silvercote Investments, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe respectively. He is now a naturalised South African citizen.Innocent also has an MBA, an advanced diploma in business and accounting, a B.Com accounting honours degree, a project management certificate and is a certified SAP (FI) consultant. He believes in adding a qualification at least once every five years and is currently contemplating studying law. “I’m always looking for ways to expand my horizons – this means I’m always reading, taking online courses and following both local and international financial news and developments.” 

The undercover restauranteur 

Innocent owns a casual dining restaurant in Pretoria East called Sunset Lounge. He enjoys the challenge of owning a dining establishment as it is completely different to his day job. It has allowed him to be creative with the menu design, décor and marketing activities. “We have a great menu and are the perfect place to unwind after a long day in the office.”