CASE IN POINT | Department of Justice
by Andrew Ngozo
Balancing the Books at the NPA
At the heart of the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) improved financial and administrative management is the resourceful and experienced Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Karen van Rensburg. Her pensive assessment of the books enabled the NPA to achieve a clean audit and made her the organisation’s first CEO to achieve such excellence in good governance.
Van Rensburg’s passion for justice inspires her to sustain excellence in good governance. She wants to ensure that every prosecutor in the country has adequate resources for the successful prosecution of all criminal matters in court. Her responsibilities have various administrative strands which includes occupational health and safety issues, information technology and management, research, human resource management, strategy management, enterprise risk management, communications and enterprise performance management..
“I am responsible for good governance, and the audit outcome of the NPA is a key measure of the governance status of the organisation. My day consists of meetings with managers to ensure that the audit action plan is implemented and that these objectives are met,” she says.
She enjoys her work environment, especially the intellectual stimulation emanating from interactions with all stakeholders and from the challenges of her post – even when the environment is at its most frustrating.
She says that, although she enjoys her work, it comes with some challenges that she encounters as a woman CEO.
“Unfortunately it is still a male-dominated world. Women have to work twice as hard to get half the recognition of their male counterparts. However, there are advantages to being a woman, as we tend to be more intuitive and do not have an ego to maintain. So, as a woman, it is okay to acknowledge that you have made a mistake,” she points out.
According to her, there are many challenges that are facing women in general, but her message to all women is “it’s never too late”.
“No dream is ever too big to achieve. Many years ago I said that I wanted to be a CEO, and today I am. You need to map a path for yourself and stick to it. Having children should not hold you back but rather inspire you,” Van Rensburg adds.
She says that, at some point in her life, she was a single parent struggling to support her children, but that did not discourage her. Instead, she used her situation as an inspiration and worked hard to earn a promotion and build a better future for her children. “No dream was achieved by lying on the couch dreaming or by complaining about what other people have. You cannot expect to start at the top. You need to visualise the dream and then go out there and live it. You will get knocked down a few times, so be prepared for this. Get up and keep walking,” she advises.
This mother of four says that if a person wants to pursue the same career path as her, that person must be legally qualified and be prepared to make sacrifices in terms of time, among other things.
At the Helm of the Department’s Finances
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s financial systems and management are under the capable stewardship of Chief Financial Officer Louraine Rossouw. Rossouw brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Department, thus ensuring that the Department manages the funds voted and entrusted to it efficiently and effectively. She is an accomplished chartered accountant and a certified internal auditor with a master’s degree in taxation.
Rossouw gained her experience in financial management as an executive in the educational sector after starting her career at one of the big four auditing firms. From 1994 to 2001, she headed the Department of Accounting and School of Entrepreneurship and Business Development at the Central University of Technology. She enjoyed the respect of the broad academic community and exercised constructive leadership in many fields. Subsequently, she was appointed as chief financial officer of the Free State Department of Education, where she was recognised for her contribution to corporate governance, and specifically for ensuring the strategic alignment of departmental resources and the establishment of an enterprise-wide risk management system. She still contributes to corporate governance in education by serving as chairperson of the Audit Committee of Umalusi, the council for quality assurance in general and further education and training in South Africa.
Prior to joining the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Rossouw worked as the chief financial and operations officer at Christel House South Africa, a nonprofit organisation which seeks to break the cycle of poverty through education. “I am passionate about my work and my contribution towards the achievement of organisational goals,” she says. She is a go-getter and is unshaken by the challenges that the Department is faced with on a daily basis. “I am guided by the sole purpose of making decisions in the best interests of the Department.” She describes the highlight of her career so far as having worked for, and learnt from, a world-renowned business leader, Christel DeHaan, the founder of the timeshare vacation exchange industry, Resort Condominium International (RCI), who established Christel House South Africa. “It is very satisfying to play a constructive role in helping children to break the cycle of poverty, to realise their hopes and dreams, and to help them become self-sufficient and contributing members of society,” she points out.
Rossouw draws her strength and motivation from making a difference in the lives of our poorest communities in South Africa. The significant role of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in providing access to justice for vulnerable groups should not be underestimated. “We often overlook the role of legislation in ensuring the transformation of society and the recognition of human rights as entrenched in our Constitution. Much has still to be done to educate our communities regarding their rights and responsibilities in upholding our constitutional democracy.”
Rossouw believes in the power of partnership and welcomes contributions from all her colleagues to creating an environment that is not only responsive to the needs of communities, but is also fully aligned with the standards, processes and regulations in place. “Leaders should leave a legacy of passion, energy and competence wherever they go,” says Rossouw. “The focus should always be on service delivery, with a seamless and consistent service across all regions and all service points being the ultimate goal.”
Rossouw further explains that she enjoys working with all stakeholders to maintain the legacy of an efficient and effective justice system for future generations in South Africa. “We should remember what it took for us to get to these positions and take the time to share our knowledge and experience with others,” she explains. She believes that significant strides have been made in South Africa to empower women and that they should therefore use these opportunities wisely, taking responsibility for their own development and giving back to their communities.