CFO of the Week: Shabeer Khan (DTI): CAs should consider the government

While Shabeer Khan, Chief Financial Officer of the dti, admits to dreaming of becoming an astronaut, a Formula One racing driver and even a fireman as a young boy, he would now like to encourage young Chartered Accountants (CAs) to take the route that he has taken. At the age of 34 he confesses to having considered other career prospects but working for Government was a conscious decision for him and he assures us that nothing compares with the daily fulfillment he gets from his current role. The perception is that working for government can be a risky career choice but Khan says that working for the government provides an opportunity where you can enhance your skills and make a real contribution to your country. Khan currently leads a team of 90 people and was the only CA within the dti when he joined in 2013.

Khan says he owes his solid professional qualifications to his father, a retired school teacher who encouraged and inspired his children. Khan enjoys being a CA because it is a dynamic profession that allows one to obtain exposure in business, accounting, auditing, tax and other career directions.

Previously, Khan worked for the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) where he was responsible for a large portfolio of audits and also led a number of teams on international audits. His background plays a major part in his current role as Chief Financial Officer and he believes it will continue to help him throughout his career. The office of the Auditor General instilled in Khan the importance of mentoring and empowering others and helping them to develop, something he insists on still today.

The turning point for Khan was the 1991 cricket tour of India. The sporting worlds mirrored the change of politics in South Africa and a sense of unity enveloped our country. He realised the positive impact that just one event, one team and even a single person could have, and from that moment on Khan says he knew that whatever career path he would follow, he wanted to make a difference. There are not many CAs in government and he'd like to inspire more to serve their country.

Khan's proudest contribution so far has been improving the audit outcome at the dti. Three years ago the dti was faced with a significant number of audit findings. Khan and his team reviewed certain policies and introduced innovative ways of making the dti more efficient. He takes pride in knowing that service has since improved, the number of audit findings have significantly reduced and he's hoping for an even better audit outcome for the current year and of course ultimately he's striving for a clean audit.

Two other projects that the CFO is particularly proud of are the organisation of the dti's SA Premier Business Awards which was attended by President Zuma. Ultimately, if we can use the event as an innovation to spur on competition, the business and job implications could be huge; this is a prime example of good government innovation. The other successful project is the CFO Help Desk. Not only is the CFO Help Desk the first point of contact for the Chief Financial Officer's office, it also allows for increased productivity as well as increased customer satisfaction in that it ensures that all payments are paid promptly. In comparison to the 30 day turnaround time requirement for government, 95% of the dti's payments were paid within 10 working days for 2013/14 year, and the remainder paid within 21 days. This concept has won awards and accolades and has been lauded throughout government as many government departments struggle with antiquated or inadequate systems. the dti is there to support small businesses and it is crucial that we pay our suppliers on time and set the right example.

Now that the dti has a tool that works really well, Khan feels it needs to be shared within other departments. A month ago he shared his department's success with a forum of Directors General. He explained how the system works and how it helps the dti to pay its creditors within 30 days. There is a lot more the government can do and if we share our successes, we can learn a lot from each other.

Clearly the dti is a dynamic department and with its current management team Khan believes they are destined for great things.