Accountability professionals like Ellencia Bontze-Hanse must ensure that public institutions are accountable for public funds they are entrusted to provide essential services and facilities directly to the people.
As one of three levels of the Namibian government, regional councils manage significant public monies to provide water, healthcare, better education, public safety, better roads and socio-economic programmes directly to the people.
Bontze-Hanse is the deputy director for finance at the Hardap Regional Council. “I am serving as the financial advisor to the chief regional officer on financial affairs of the regional council and those of the delegated functions,” she said. She is one of the highly qualified financial experts serving in the public service. Bontze-Hanse joined the public service in November 2004 as an assistant accountant at the Hardap Regional Council.
Before that, she worked as a registry clerk at the Government Institutions Pension Fund.“I joined the public service to make a difference. Many a time public servants are criticised for almost everything especially on service delivery,” she said.
“Being a public servant, one needs to understand that the people are our primary bosses. We are here to serve them, hence the need to understand the principles of good governance.
And to build the trust through being accountable at all times on the modus operandi of the public affairs. ”Bontze-Hanse was born and bred in the small town of Maltahöhe in southern central Namibia. She completed her matric at Mariental High School in 2000.
Her academic resume includes a bachelor degree in accounting and finance from Namibia University of Science and Technology (formerly the Polytechnic of Namibia) and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the London School of Business and Finance.
“I am currently a member and student of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, pursuing my professional qualification.”
And the Hardap Regional Council has greatly benefited from her accounting and financial expertise.
She pointed out “the deliberate interventions in terms of improving the status quo on audit opinions more specifically on financial management is evident. We are not where we would like to be but we can measure the progress made so far.
“The budget management in terms of making a budgetary provision for maintaining the current ageing infrastructure is a success although there is still a room for improvement.
“And also considering the current economic climate under which we operate, we are trying our level best to improve on revenue collection and in assisting the central government through our efforts to stimulate the economy.”
According to Bontze-Hanse one of her memorable moment comes when the Hardap Regional Council obtained an unqualified audit opinion for the 2016/17 financial period.
“One of the memorable moments I have in public service is when we as the regional council obtained an unqualified audit opinion expressed by the Office of the Auditor-General on the 2016/17 financial report and when we adopted the IPSAS (International Public Sector Accounting Standards) as the acceptable financial reporting framework.
It gives me so much pleasure in reaching that milestone of service delivery.” She emphasised that IPSAS is a financial reporting framework more suitable for public sector accounting. “It is centred on transparency which provides a better understanding of financial performance and greater accountability to make informed decisions. Yes, almost all the 14 regional councils have adopted the framework.”
This milestone is a testament that experts can also make their marks while serving in the public service. This is a reference to the general stereotype that public servants are inherently unproductive and inefficient.“Yes, it is just a perception which I for one would like to prove wrong otherwise.
The ultimate aim of efficiency in the bookkeeping of accounts remains the same whether you are in the private sector or the public sector,” she said.
“But it is up to us and the time is now for accountants in the public sector to play a vital role in contributing to the value chain of the accountancy profession. The lack of financial reporting framework in the public sector is one the reasons such sentiments persist. Currently, we have adopted IPSAS as the acceptable financial reporting framework. I believe it will change the status quo in financial management specifically focusing on accountability, transparency and efficiency in managing public funds.”
She added that “Public service is there to provide the social-net to all inhabitants of any given country. For me, it is a privilege and an honour to be part of this great team contributing towards the realisation of this vision we have as a country.”
Presently, Bontze-Hanse cannot say how long she planning to serve in Public Service. “But at the moment, I have a dream to leave a legacy at where I am now. I am not yet where I would love to see myself, but one day with the help of my God I will achieve my dreams to add significant value to service delivery in the public service.”
In the meantime, Bontze-Hanse wants to complete her professional qualification with ACCA. “My biggest dream would be to plough back that knowledge in the public service. Together we can change the people’s perception on how we provide our services to the public and to add value to our modus operandi.”