Anyone who grew up in the eighties and nineties will remember that parents and teachers said the path to abundance was to become a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant. For Rakshika Danilala, who is an Associate General Accountant AGA(SA) and Senior Manager: Reporting in the Audit Research and Development unit at the Auditor-General of South Africa, the accounting bug bit her at an early age. But what no one could foretell was her love and passion for working in the public sector.
KwaZulu-Natal born and raised, Danilala says that when she opted to choose accounting as her career path of choice, her father wasted no time in shipping her off to the University of South Africa to study for a Bachelor of Accounting Science (BCompt). Armed with ambition her studies accelerated rapidly and in April 2000 she started work as an audit assistant at the Auditor General, while serving her five-year articles with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) — South Africa’s premier accountancy body and the home of AGAs(SA).
Now, in her 20th year of employment in the institution, Danilala is tasked by law to audit and report on how government is spending South African taxpayer’s money. She has worked in national, provincial and local government, and as a member of the United Nations (UN) board of auditors.
“Working in the public sector is a very fulfilling experience, because what you do is ultimately aimed at making a positive difference in people’s lives, it is not just for commercial profit-making reasons. The results of our audits enable government institutions that are the custodians of the public resources to focus on how well they use resources. Our audit results are also made public and therefore leadership and oversight authorities as well as the public are enabled to hold those entrusted with public resources accountable,” says Danilala.
The public sector is somewhere accountants can make a real difference, explains Danilala. “Back in 2018, I was appointed to be a senior manager for reporting. While vast, my main responsibilities are producing many general reports on the audit outcomes across all spheres of government, including the special AG reports on the Covid-19 audits that will be tabled in Parliament.”
This is challenging work and highlights the importance of professionalising the finance teams that work in the sector. That’s why, when why she chose to pursue the AGA(SA) qualification and designation, Danilala says: “Before acquiring this designation, I had already obtained the Registered Government Auditor (RGA) qualification. However, this a public sector qualification, and considering that my tertiary education degree plus articles are more private sector orientated, the designation helped attach more recognition to what I have studied. It has always been difficult to explain what I did purely based on having a degree and serving articles in the past. This was therefore a good opportunity to attach a professional designation to my name.”
One perk of being the holder of the AGA(SA) designation means she is recognised as a member of SAICA. This, she says, enables her to gain access to the organisation’s resources such as training programmes, webinars and reading material relevant to the accountancy profession.
“It’s important for my own career growth and development that I keep abreast of new developments in the accountancy profession. In the past it was quite disconcerting to know that having completed my articles I couldn’t be a member of SAICA because I wasn’t a Chartered Accountant,” she adds.
As an AGA(SA) she is equipped with key technical skills and managerial skills that have helped her ascend the financial sector ladder towards plenty of career highlights, one of them being a part of the team tasked with auditing and reporting on the R500-billion fiscal package allocated by government to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.
When talking about the impact of Covid-19 and how the data-heavy auditing and accountancy profession is evolving in mitigating the effects, Danilala says the resultant need to innovate and find new ways of doing things is a positive step for the industry. “We’ve always known there was an easier, more efficient way of doing things as there always existed a tedious aspect to the job. The Coronavirus pandemic has ensured that we finally tap into that realm in order to save on costs, and it’s working out well.”
Asked for her advice to anyone considering the AGA(SA) or AT(SA) qualification route, she says: “The AGA(SA) qualification and designation is a culmination of both what you have studied, and the experience you have acquired. It serves to recognise these achievements and standards of excellence you have achieved in your career.
“It also acts as a stepping stone to opportunities for further career growth and success in the accounting and auditing professions. You drive your own career, and if you have a love for accounting and auditing, or are still learning, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by pursuing these qualification routes,” says Danilala.