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Addressing The Accountability Gap In Africa

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This is a summary of an interview between Ziwani’s Ofhentse Piet and Valentine Gitoho, which was recorded live at the Ziwani launch on 25 June 2021. You can watch the full video here.

OP: Won’t you tell us a little bit of your story? What are some of the things that have shaped you and ultimately brought you to this place where you are passionate about accountability?

VG: I used to work at PWC as a tax consultant, and we were accountable for every 15 minutes of our time. This was important for billing the client and collecting payment, so for me, performance and accountability was part of the work we used to do. I then worked for Diner’s Club, where issues of integrity were extremely high because we became a finance institution. Then, moving to the church I became the secretary for the Council, and one of the things I asked for as soon as I took over the position was the church constitution, so that I could follow it. It surprised me that they had to look for it because I thought it was something we all needed to have – so once it was found I made copies and gave them to everyone in the council, and I found that many of them had never even seen it!

OP: Please tell us more about this exciting initiative – the African Council for Accreditation and Accountability, and why it was established.

VG: In 1995, I used to sit on a commission for the African Evangelistic Association (AEA), and we were trying to figure out how we could improve and enhance the accountability of the members. At that time I was also a board member for the Evangelical Association for Financial Accountability (EAFA) in the US, so I understood the standards and enjoyed learning what it meant to be accountable. I also used to be an ecumenical enabler for the Council of Churches in Africa and I noticed the various capacity gaps that existed, not only in financial matters, but also in areas regarding talent management,  leadership and governance issues. I thought that this was something we needed to do.

In 2012, I was invited for a meeting to set up a trust fund for missions in Africa (The Mission to Africa Trust Fund) in Ghana. I told them that I was not involved in missions, but I would be interested to see how anyone who is getting funding would meet certain standards of accountability to ensure that we are trustworthy in the way we handle organisations. Note, I’m talking about organisations, not money – this is organisational discipleship. And it was there that I gave the first presentation of what I thought an African council for accreditation and accountability could look like, and with a team of friends the ACCA was founded in 2015.

So the gap was between the ‘word’ and the ‘work.’ I noticed that in meetings across Africa, we would start with prayer and speaking in tongues, but when it was time to get into the work, there were such big gaps. As a consultant, you only had 2–3 days in one place, so I used to pray a lot for the Lord to show me exactly what was going on. I would even challenge auditors on why clean audits were given when there were obvious issues in the financial reports.

For us, the desire was that we would truly be the light, and that many would be attracted to Christ because of the good deeds of the organisations that we run – not only because they are successful but because the individuals in there come from families, churches, and communities, where they carry a lot of influence, which would help to build public trust. I’m really about public trust in Christian organisations. The ultimate goal is to unlock Africa’s potential through adherence to Biblical standards.

OP: That is so exciting Valentine. Well done for establishing this much-needed initiative. You’ve been involved in business as a marketplace leader and also in church and ministry. How has this shaped your perspective on faith and work integration?

VG: One of the things that comes up very clearly is that you cannot do unless you are. In other words, you cannot disciple others unless you are a disciple. So it starts with me and who I am. Personally, I would go away for a retreat every quarter just to reflect and have time with the Lord. We also have Bible studies as a couple because it all starts at home. And then I have accountability partners around me to help me to ‘walk the talk’ as it were.

OP: That is very good. So one of the issues that always comes up whenever the subject of the future of Africa is discussed is the need for good leadership. I know that you and your husband are involved in raising up the next generation. What are some of the things that you would like to instil in the next generation?

VG: Firstly, we need to understand what the next generation is all about. We’ve really engaged with the younger generation from about the time they become teenagers, all the way to university and young working adults. We have found that this generation is actually suffering because of the parents. Some of them come from broken families, and from single-parent homes. Others just have a harsh home environment where there is some kind of oppression.

So first of all, trying to understand the environment from which the children come. Some of them are from very wealthy families and are simply living in the hope that when their parents die, they will inherit everything. One of the things we try to do is to give them a long-term perspective, and we do that through goal-setting – your personal vision, mission, and goals. We use this as a tool to try and figure out where the kids are in their thinking about their role in their families, their finances, their friends. It’s a great tool because it forces them to think wider than just making money. We discuss issues of health for example, and what they put into their bodies which are temples of the Holy Spirit. And by the way, we also do this with non-believers, and have seen some of them coming to Christ.

We also see what we call the idolatry of self, expressed increasingly through social media, which makes it hard to reach out to young people. So we find ways to create platforms where they can connect. One such tools was introduced to us by Patrick Kuwana on transformational leadership. That has been an incredible tool because it helps them to look at themselves first and see some of the false beliefs and baggage that they have been carrying, and how that impacts their work culture, so that they can be set free and be productive.

OP: How can leaders be a part of building a God-honouring culture?

VG: If you look at the leadership we have right now in Kenya, there is the issue of oppressive injustice – a country’s resources are held by a few people, and they want to keep it to themselves, even making laws to achieve this. I remember doing career guidance with a group of students and asking them what careers they wanted to pursue. Most of them said they wanted to be in ‘procurement’ because in their view, that is the quickest way to make money. Even the parents are involved in bribery when it comes to examination papers and results. So when our national leaders are themselves corrupt, they can’t point a figure at anybody else. So it is a continuation of the norm, and it has become systemic.

But we shouldn’t lose heart. That is why we must invest in the younger generation, to give them an alternative view, and God will bless us because of it.

OP: Thank you so much Valentine, asante sana. It has been a privilege hearing from you.

Valentine Gitoho is a Fellow of the Institute of the Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and has over 40 years’ management experience, including at Price Waterhouse, the World Bank, and the World Council of Churches. She is a founder and director of LEEDS Consulting as well as the African Council for Accreditation and Accountability (AfCAA). Valentine is married to James, with two adult children and two grandchildren. She lives in Nairobi, Kenya.

Contributor Valentine Gitoho

Valentine Gitoho

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