Leaders, build leaders, says 2021 CFO of the Year

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The AGSA’s Bongi Ngoma hopes to inspire other leaders to follow in her footsteps.

Society has, time and again, found ways to prove its antifragility, and the Covid-19 pandemic was no different. At a time when health was everyone’s biggest concern, the world had a massive reconsideration about what their wellness would look like going forward. This forced people and businesses to look at those around them, and consider the impact they have on broader society.

For Bongi Ngoma, who now serves as the national head of audit at the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA), the new year ushers in hopes of having a more fruitful impact on others. “I am firmly of the view that the people and leadership of any organisation have a direct impact on its productivity, continuity and sustainability,” she says. “It is for this reason that my personal resolution is to tactically focus on building the capacity of leaders and aspiring leaders.”

In 2021, Bongi received the coveted CFO of the Year Award for her leadership role as the CFO of the AGSA. Now, she intends to help other leaders follow in her footsteps. “My intent is to focus on the critical elements that will capacitate leaders who are excellence enthusiasts with the tools they need to propel them to self-actualisation,” Bongi adds.

She explains that this plan focuses on five elements to help leaders realise their true potential to achieve great things. They are:

  • Excellence
  • Accountability
  • Capacity building
  • Confidence and self-esteem
  • Positive affirmations

“I want to demonstrate that leadership is not dependent on title or position,” Bongi says. “I want to create awareness of the fact that everyone has to step up as leaders. Everyone has the ability and a responsibility to lead from whatever role they play.”

Bongi has been responsible for the guidance of many young, aspiring finance leaders during her time at the AGSA, and makes it known that she expects nothing less than excellence. In her keynote address at the 2022 Finance Indaba Online, Bongi pointed out: “As finance leaders, we are called to care about the meaning behind the numbers that will reflect in the balance sheets. To care about climate change, and about the alarming geopolitical conflicts. We experience the impact of these in the steep rise in fuel costs, the rise in inflation, coupled with a cost of living that is becoming unbearable for most citizens. We are called to be more than just number crunchers of bean counters: we are called to be global thinkers with the kind of mindset that can link numbers to the impact.”

This year, she hopes to play a more active role in helping the cohort of finance professionals show up differently, “and do the right thing. Finance professionals have a key role to play in improving the audit outcomes we produce on an annual basis and we cannot continue to just lament the poor outcomes without doing things differently. I hope to contribute positively to improving the quality of our finance professionals.”

From a leader, to a leader

Finance professionals were tested beyond measure during the catastrophic events of the Covid-19 pandemic. “It was during that unprecedented time that those who were fully present realised that our profession as we knew it was evolving rapidly,” Bongi says.

She explains that those who were counting beans were left behind with their calculators, while the rest were exploring and putting innovative ways to be value drivers into action.

“Consequently, the new and future normal continues to compel all of us to find practical, sustainable and flexible ways to deliver value to our stakeholders.”

Bongi believes, without a doubt, that 2023 won’t be promising a global financial glow-up. “In the past year, we’ve witnessed geopolitical conflicts, global supply chains coming under immense pressure, and rising fuel costs. Not to mention the energy insecurities in South Africa,” she says. “These societal upheavals will continue to impact the way we plan and execute our work as professionals and test our commitment towards being value drivers.”

These economic challenges have also contributed to the lack of resources available to drive the national socio-economic agenda, she adds. “This agenda has to be foremost on our individual list of priorities. We have to make greater strides in how the majority of our citizens live.”

Bongi encourages other leaders to take on a culture of service in the year ahead. “If we, as the CFO community, accept that we are prudent stewards and make it our biggest agenda to serve, we will be equal to the task of true transformation.”

She adds that:

“We are the ones we need to move this country forward. And to do this, we don’t only need to create a burning platform for us to drive value, but we have to call out detestable behaviour and challenge the current state of affairs that derail our agenda.”

Part of the value chain

Bongi also hopes to teach other leaders that becoming a great leader is not just about the social and governance impact, but also about the environment. “We need futuristic and mindful stewards that will leave this world in a better place than we found it,” she says.

She explains that finance professionals are well positioned to provide assurance on environmental, social and governance information due to their expertise, professional standards, systems of quality management, objectivity and independence requirements. They also shape the direction and the contribution that organisations need to make in this very important area. “Finance professionals are well positioned to be purposeful and strategic in enabling ESG initiatives.”

She explains that ESG can’t be an ad hoc project for meeting some compliance needs. It has to find prominence in the organisation’s mission, vision and strategy. “As such, it is up to the leaders of those organisations to make sure they are contributing to ESG.”

Bongi encourages leaders to be much more purposeful about their ESG strategies. “There are burning societal issues, like the youth unemployment rate, which could have dire and ripple effects if left unattended. If we all play our part in being stewards of our beautiful land, we will ultimately leave a legacy for the benefit of the leaders that are yet to be born.”

She concludes that: “We are part of a value chain. We need to ensure that the value chain works if we want our impact to be sustained.”

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