Pretoria - The lack of basic literacy and numeracy at municipalities is "alarming", but is now being actively handled at grassroots level.
Natalie Zimmelman, business manager of the Association of Accounting Technicians SA (AAT(SA)), says the enormous need for skills at municipal level has motivated a highly unique training opportunity.
AAT(SA) is in a partnership with the Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) to improve skills within government, as well as in private-sector financial divisions.
Zimmelman says that the focus of AAT(SA) on municipalities links up with the Auditor-General's desire for clean audits.
A ready-made training course is currently being offered at 14 municipalities in Gauteng, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal.
AAT(SA) programme manager Riana de Bruyn explains that the training focuses on creditor and debtor clerks, salary and wage officials, cashiers and even meter-readers. It is not aimed at heads of finance.
The training extends over 12 months and is divided into three sections: projects, case studies and simulation.
The emphasis is on competence. When someone has completed the year, he has to perform a bank reconciliation 100% correctly, and not with only 50% accuracy.
"The cash flow statement may not be only half-correct. The qualification attests to one's competence," says De Bruyn.
"We are expanding massively with finance from the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the Gauteng Department of Local Government and the training authority for local government," Zimmelman informs.
Only institutions that have gone through a strict accreditation process are offering the course.
According to Zimmelman the first course was over only six months, and it began with the assumption that learners were numerate.
The course has now been lengthened and begins with basic numeracy skills and literacy. At the moment between 50% and 70% of the learners are mastering these skills for the first time.
They get another opportunity to master the skills that they still lack.
The course is in no way an avenue to a career as a chartered accountant.
"People do not learn nursing to become a doctor, and similarly assistant accountants or account officials are not on their way to becoming chartered accountants."
The course gives people who've done a particular job for years recognition by means of a qualification that ensures the standard of their work.
It also gives the employer peace of mind that the person with the qualification has been properly assessed.
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