No sooner have we returned to work after the festive season then Easter is upon us. This is a stark reminder that time is our scarcest resource. Yet it is the one most wasted.
Fasset is blessed to have many long-serving and dedicated team members, some of whom have served the Seta since inception. But we have also been celebrating the arrival of some new 'brooms' lately, most notably new Acting CEO and COO, Elizabeth Thobejane, and Chief Financial Officer, Zanoxolo Koyana. Soon, a Director of Processing and Quality Assurance and a Project Manager will be appointed to give our core management team new strength and direction.
The 2018/19 financial year brings a new grants cycle and, as is customary, we will be taking this message to skills development facilitators countrywide during April. Visit our website after Easter for a list of dates and venues and be sure not to miss out on these crucial events, which will give you all the information you need to use the Fasset grants scheme to full advantage.
We have also planned an exciting calendar of lifelong learning events, which will include sessions on International Financial Reporting Standards for small and medium businesses, emotional intelligence, and risks and ethics. Again, keep an eye on our website for updates.
Revisiting the theme of time, let's give the new financial year our all. It is often said, cynically, that we live according to African time. To my mind, African time is the best time. But, as the African proverb says, 'Time lost is lost forever'.
We owe it to ourselves to put our time to best use and focus as much as possible on the positive, as positivity is contagious.
Enjoy your leisure time over the Easter weekend, and, if you are travelling, drive with care-for your sake, and that of your families and all other road users.
Marketing and Communications Manager
FROM THE ACTING CEO'S DESK
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) is undoubtedly the highlight of every Seta's year and ours was no exception. Held at the Sunnyside Park Hotel on 21 September, it was the perfect platform for us to share with our stakeholders the triumphs and trials of the 2016/2017 year. And there were much to talk about in both categories.
The 2017/18 year is at an end and we have touched ground again after something of a rollercoaster ride for Fasset and its stakeholders, for reasons that are well documented.
We have ambitious plans for the final two years of National Skills Development Strategy lll, which will take us to end-March 2020. That will be a bittersweet time, as the book will close for the final time on the NSDS. It has been our constant companion every step of the way since the inception of the Setas and, considering that it was the country's first attempt at an all-inclusive skills development system, it has served us-and the country-well. We, in turn, have done it justice, which is just what we intend to do post-2020 when the National Skills Development Plan (NSDP) 2030 is launched as the new driver of skills development across the economy.
Fasset is currently acquainting itself more closely with the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of the new system, which, until recently, was out for public comment (a story on the NSDP appears further on in this issue).
As we enter the 2018/19 financial year, I would like to welcome aboard Elizabeth Thobajane, who will take over from me as Acting CEO until the Minister decides on a permanent CEO. She will also assume the Chief Operating Officer's position.
Previously Deputy-Director-General at Gauteng Department of Education, Elizabeth has spent the last seven years in local government, and has also served as Chief Director: Skills Development at Department of Higher Education and Training. She welcomes the opportunity to lead a Seta that has so many exciting plans in place.
Over the next two years, it is generally agreed that Fasset needs to take a long-term and holistic view of the skills pipeline, ensuring that new entrants achieve professional status, strengthening capacity of TVET colleges and improving the placement of TVET learners, and supporting transformation of the sector.
For this year, we have earmarked R330 million for Pivotal projects, almost two thirds of which will be invested in academic support for completion of an academic qualification or designation. This will benefit more than 3 300 individuals. The Fasset bursary scheme will take the lion's share of academic support, assisting more than 600 students.
In the non-Pivotal category, lifelong learning will be the most heavily funded initiative, and supports the Ministerial outcome of increasing access to programmes leading to intermediate and high-level learning. This year, our lifelong learning programme aims to enrich the professional lives of almost 30 000 employees through presentations on legislation and financial requirements, and on skills such as conflict management and assertiveness.
In line with the Ministerial outcome of increasing access to occupationally directed programmes in needed areas to expand the availability of intermediate level skills, 480 TVET graduates will be placed into employment to complete the national diploma qualification and 15 partnerships will be established with employers to support learners on the TVT work-based experience programme.
Through the years, we have relied heavily on our stakeholders' support and partnership, to the extent that Fasset continues to rank among the best-performing Setas year after year.
We hope that you will join us on the sprint down the final straight of the current system, seeing the NSDS out in true style, while helping us to strengthen the lasting legacy we are building for the next volume in the South African skills anthology.
Acting Chief Executive Officer
PERFECTING THE ETIQUETTE MINDSET
When one thinks of skills in the finance and accounting services sector, figures, ledgers and financial statements are probably the first images that spring to mind.
But spare a thought for the softer skills that are often overlooked in the rush for technical expertise and business competence. These skills are the subjects of the lifelong learning workshops for which Fasset has become known and which are gaining a growing fan club among employers in the sector.
A particularly popular session is office etiquette.
We've all had to clench our teeth and hold our tongues while a colleague peppered the air with expletives, raucously regaled the entire office block with details of a wild weekend, or sniffed and snorted the way through the day, giving literal meaning to the words 'you make me sick'.
The need to be considerate of fellow workers and mindful of their needs may seem to be common sense, but, often, common sense is not common at all.
This is why Fasset's office etiquette lifelong learning events are so important to overall workplace proficiency.
Thato Nkosi, director of Step Ahead Academy, which delivers these workshops, says: 'Companies often overlook the importance of professional office behaviour skills, but many people need a helping hand in developing these attributes.
'It is often difficult to assess one's workplace behaviour objectively, and the abilities to interpret body language and interact with people don't always come naturally.'
Until the next Fasset etiquette workshop is scheduled, Thato shares with Fasset Facts readers some valuable tips that every employee should heed ?
- Get a dressing down: The dress code of an organisation is not a suggestion, but a stipulation. Casino host attire is not appropriate in a chartered accountancy firm. Employees must remain mindful that they are 'the face' of their companies and project the corporate image in everything they do.
- Talk, but know when to halt: Talking over colleagues is disrespectful and a sign of poor social skills.
- Gag the gossip: Not only does gossiping waste valuable time, but it sows seeds of discontent and suspicion in the workplace.
- Turn down the volume: Talking loudly is intrusive and invades other people's personal space.
- Don't try to spice up the menu: Pungent-smelling food heated in the office microwave, smelly sandwiches, even buttery popcorn, are best kept for home.
- Slang should not be your thang: Slang and text-speak are totally out of place in business emails and communication and, apart from being difficult to decipher, portray the writer as slovenly and lazy.
- Pat that back: Acknowledge colleagues' good work graciously and you will become known as a team player who has the company's interests at heart.
- Don't let others cry over your spilt milk: Clean up after you, whether in the kitchen, at your desk or in the restroom. A dirty work environment not only speaks volumes about an employee, but makes the work environment unpleasant for everyone around.
Novelist Laurence Sterne summed it up neatly when he said: 'Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.'
BUDGET 2018: THE FACTS OF THE FIGURES
The good news is that South Africa is looking at improved growth. The not-so-good news is that it will not be earth-shattering growth. The economy still faces a revenue gap of R48.2 billion in the current year. In addition, the December 2017 announcement of fee-free higher education entails large allocations over the medium term.
There is no need for the budget to boggle the mind although, by necessity in an ailing economy, it holds implications for all, says Mandla Ncube, managing director of Ngwezi Consulting, which recently demystified the maths for delegates to the Fasset Budget and Tax Update lifelong learning workshops.
'The budget speech took the redemption road, with a combination of dramatic changes and creative proposals that performed a balancing act,' says Mandla.
Soon, South Africans will have to adjust their minds to the 1% increase in value-added tax. Essential items and services such as zero-rated foods, rent and accommodation, interest on loans and school fees all remain exempt, but the effects will be felt when procuring household services, at the pumps and at the tills. If, for example, a 1kg tub of yoghurt costs R28 now, it will cost R28.25 at the new VAT rate.It may sound small, but for those taking care of the pennies, it's a big consideration.
As always seems to be case, up went the price of fuel, by 52 cents a litre, made up of 22 cents a litre for the general fuel levy and 30 cents for the Road Accident Fund levy. However, the optimists among us would remind us that at least there was a 30-cents-a-litre decrease in February.
Luxury goods such as cars and smartphones will be even more of a luxury, as the ad-valorem excise duty rate increased from from 7% to 9%. The increases in alcohol and tobacco excise duties of between 6% and 10% are expected to raise R4.3 billion additional revenue.
On the other side of the coin, it was encouraging news for individual tax payers, with an increase in rebates and brackets, and greater relief for those in the lower income tax brackets.
Of particular interest to businesses, says Mandla, are the special economic zones that will mean a reduced corporate tax rate for qualifying companies, enabling them to claim an employment tax incentive for workers of all ages.
'Government has also streamlined the administration of the research and development tax incentive,' he explains. 'These measures will promote investment in those manufacturing and tradable services sectors that encourage exports, job creation and economic growth.'
In addition, Parliament is considering the draft Carbon Tax Bill, which will assist South Africa to meet its climate change commitments. This will be implemented on 1 January 2019 on the principle that the polluter must pay for, for example, dumping plastics into the oceans with no regard for the sanctity of marine life.
Although reaction from the markets to the budget has been generally positive, the average South African can look forward to punching yet another hole in his belt.
FUNDING THE STRESS OUT OF STUDY
Study and stress do not make for a winning combo. Money woes take the mind off the books and can jeopardise a student's chances of fulfilling his or her study ambitions.
This is why Fasset introduced a financial lifeline in its academic support grants, a helping hand that frees deserving students from financial worries so that they can concentrate fully on completing their degrees or earning their professional designations. Academic support grants, including bursaries and NSFAS loan repayments, assist hundreds of young aspirant accountants and financial managers each year.
At universities, the support assists those at risk of failing exams and progressing in their courses by providing extra lessons, mentoring and study skills, while the professional body offering includes mentoring and tuition.
The Fasset comprehensive bursary scheme introduced in 2016/17 provides end-to-end support to the 'missing middle'-learners who are above the salary threshold/means test applied by NSFAS, but are not eligible for bank loans. NSFAS loan repayment grant assists black African learners, coloured people in the Western and Northern Cape and people with disabilities who have completed their studies and are currently completing learnerships as part of their professional qualifications.
One doesn't have to look behind many desks in the accounting faculties of South African universities to find someone who is benefiting from Fasset funds and study support mechanisms.
Among the many is Mabatho Makgolane, who is studying financial services at the University of Pretoria (UP). In fact, Fasset did much more for her than dip into its grants kitty. 'Fasset really helped change my perspective on my work,' she says. 'I used to blame lecturers when I didn't do well but now I know that it's all on me. My tutors and the lecturers are all there to help me and I just have to use them.'
Fellow UP student Sandile Kheswa describes Fasset as 'my life saver'. The living expense funding saved her from dropping out when she was travelling 50km a day to and from campus, which was not only costly, but left no time for study.
Zizipho Kontyo and Anelisiwe Nkantsana , B Com Accounting students at University of Fort Hare Alice campus, put pen to paper to thank the Seta.
'Fasset is responsible for igniting passion, hard work and dedication in students who are working steadily towards becoming Chartered Accountants,' the two wrote. 'We have received advanced tutorials that have improved our understanding, and Fasset has created a spirit of teambuilding among the aspiring accountants that has taught us that we need each other to be successful in this industry. The motivational speeches have shown us that, with hard work and determination, everything is possible.
'Fasset's funding of professional tutors and of special camps brings nothing but joy, not only to us students but to our families, who receive great results from their children.'
SMILE-YOU'RE AN ACCOUNTANT!
Why did the accountant cross the road? So he could claim it on his travel expenses!
Jokes about accountants are nothing new and nor are terms bandied around by, as some may have it, would-be accountants who didn't quite make the grade. Think 'penny processor', 'reserved reconciler' or 'provisions peddlar'.
And, of course, the term synonymous with the profession - 'bean counter'. The title seems to date back to the early 1900s. An article in the American newspaper The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel in February 1919, titled 'The Bean Counter', quoted a gentleman in the quartermaster's department as saying: 'I suppose that somebody has to count the beans for Colonel Roosevelt's fighting sons.'
The phrase appeared in Australia in 1928, an example found in The Parliamentary Debates of the Australian House of Representatives, which stated: 'It is not a bean counter's bill. There is no attempt to make any savings.'
The insinuation that 'bean counters' were penny-pinching accountants who couldn't see the bigger picture chimes in well, reports www.phrases.org.uk, with the no-nonsense reputation of Australian politicians.
While accountants have probably reconciled themselves to being associated with garbanzos, black eyes and mungs, it's doubtful that they would warm further to the name if they found out that beans were shunned in the sixth century by Pythagoras, who believed they contained the souls of the dead. And that from the father of bean counters!
Movies have been made about accountants; others have featured them. After the release of 'The Accountant' with Ben Affleck in the leading role - which did for accountants what 'Working Girl' did for secretaries - Forbes wrote: 'If your CPA is a little sassy this month, blame it on Hollywood.'
On home soil, before the days of 'Feel good' saw her ditch ledgers to become a legend, songbird Lira was employed to balance the books. She still accrues, but nowadays it's SAMAs. And the assets of the UK magazine's 'Woman of the Year' for 2017, Nomzamo Mbatha, are growing to impressive proportions. The actress and model will graduate in April from the University of Cape Town with a BCom degree in Accounting.
Comedian Bob Newhart is an accountant. So is Ellen de Generes, who, when asked if she had been funny when she was young, replied: 'Well, no, I was an accountant.' Kenny G has an accounting degree, and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones also dabbled briefly in figures before realising that certain other figures were more appealing/were not the right figures for them.
There's even a quaint little ditty about accountants, from the off-beat minds of John Cleese and the Monty Python team. It goes something like this?
'It's fun to charter an accountant
And sail the wide accountancy,
To find, explore the funds offshore
And skirt the shoals of bankruptcy.
'It can be manly in insurance.
We'll up your premium semi-annually.
It's all tax-deductible.
We're fairly incorruptible
We're sailing on the wide accountancy.'
Accountants, it is widely known, do it without losing their balance. It's been said that they also make life less taxing. Whatever the case may be, it is a fact that behind every successful business is a good accountant: referred on T-shirts at one stage as 'someone who does precision guesswork based on unreliable data supplied by those of questionable knowledge'.
It's comforting for accountants that all professionals have their often-quirky, sometimes-crass crosses to bear. The electrician's a sparky, while the policeman's a narc. The doctor's a quack, the journalist a hack. And we're not even going to discuss lawyers.
That 'ledger lovers' are in demand is clear. Even Elvis Presley acknowledged their worth, when he said: I have no use for bodyguards, but I have very specific use for two highly trained certified public accountants.'
In a world that revolves around finances, accountants, quite simply, will never be hasbean(counter)s.