Masilo Makhura does his best to ensure no funds are wasted by public officials

The CFO of the DPSA says that he needs to safeguard the departments' limited budget.

Masilo Makhura has been the CFO of the Department of Public Service and Administration for eight years, and is vocal about ensuring budgetary and governance compliance in his department. He chatted to CFO.co.za about his background, and how helping his mother out in her fruit shop helped ready him for the world of finance.

Tell us a little about your career background?
I graduated as B.Com student in 1998 at the University of the North. I then joined audit firm PwC as a trainee accountant doing my articles. After completion of my articles in 2001, I joined Pytron Consulting, which was a break-away company from Anderson Consulting. I was in the Public Sector unit and was then sent to Mpumalanga, Nelspruit to implement the current basic accounting system (BAS) in all Mpumalanga government departments.

In August 2002 I resigned from Pytron Consulting and joined the government in Mpumalanga in the provincial office of the Accountant General as a deputy director (Financial Systems). My main duty was to manage the BAS in the province, providing training and assisting all provincial departments in the preparation of their annual financial statements in terms of the Public Finance Management Act.

I also had the opportunity to chair the Provincial CFO forum of Mpumalanga. In 2008, I left Nelspruit and joined the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in Pretoria as a director in finance. I was then directly charged with finance matters and preparation of the financial statements in the department. In 2011 I joined the Department of Public Service and Administration as the CFO, a position I have held ever since.

What are the focus areas in your current role?
My role is to manage the departmental finances, including preparation and management of the departmental budget, manage the entire procurement and supply chain management, financial and bookkeeping as well as preparation of the financial reports of the department. My other role is to participate in the overall strategic management of the department, advising management on financial and budget matters relating to projects and service delivery related matters. I am also here to ensure compliance with all government legislative requirements and report on the implementation of projects to both the audit committee and parliament.

What opportunities and challenges are you faced within the current economic climate?
The challenge I’m faced with is to ensure the prevention of corruption in the public sector and that there is no wastage of public funds by officials. My other challenge is to ensure that everybody in the department complies with all legislative requirements relating to financial and SCM matters. In this economic climate, I need to safeguard that the limited budget allocated to the department is utilised effectively and efficiently, and guarantee that austerity measures introduced by National Treasury are implemented fully to save unnecessary costs and wastage.

How did you choose a career in finance?
When I went to high school, I had the opportunity to choose between doing agriculture as a subject, or history or accounting. I didn’t like history and I had initially planned to do Agriculture, but a friend discouraged me saying that we would always be outside the class doing gardening at school. That is how I ended choosing accounting or commercial subjects. But I realised later that I was good at counting and mathematics. In fact, I grew up selling fruits at home for my mother. At the age of eight years, I used to stand at the soccer stadium and sell apples and mangos by myself, and that involved receiving money and giving back change, as well as ensuring that I didn’t end up running at a loss.

What makes a great CFO?
Dedication, discipline and hard work. You need to be somebody who is always looking to improve your work performance on a daily basis and do a lot of reading and research. But again, a great CFO is the one who is ready to take risks, apply rules accurately, and be equipped to take difficult and unpopular decisions at times in order to move your organisation forward. To be a great CFO, you have to ready yourself to be hated by certain individuals in the organisation; it comes with the territory. A great CFO is also one who always strives to get the best out of his colleagues and encourages them to always work hard.

What is your leadership style?
I believe in continuous coaching and mentoring. My leadership style is to let my colleagues express themselves and also allow them to make mistakes, where necessary, in order for them to learn. I believe in empowering individuals to work independently, rather than spoon-feeding people which may result in them learning nothing. An open-door policy is what I prefer. Rather try something and ask for correction, than do nothing and expect to be given all the ideas.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I would like to start my own company. I’m interested in the construction business and therefore would like to start my ow construction company. My accounting background will assist me in running this company and with financial decision making.

What are your interests outside of work? 
I’m an amateur cyclist. I belong to a cycling club in Centurion called The Bicycle Company. Every weekend, we have our social rides and I also participate in major cycling races in the country. I also love travelling.

What advice would you give to your younger self? 
Remain who you are. Never try to change the way you are, believe in your principles and be honest to yourself.