Challenging Perspectives I Spreadsheet Magazine23.08.2010

AfID volunteer David Black recounts his experiences in Zambia to Spreadsheet Magazine, including some of his achievements when building the financial management capacity at charity Copperbelt Health Education Project.

ou might remember reading in last October’s Spreadsheet about CIPFA member David Black who was about to start a volunteer assignment with AfID (Accounting for International Development). David was heading to Zambia to volunteer with the Copperbelt Health Education Project (CHEP) – a small grassroots non-governmental organisation (NGO) which aims to inform and educate people across the country about HIV/AIDS. A key objective of AfID is to help raise the profile of local NGO finance staff, ensuring they have the skills and confidence to participate fully in their organisations’ decision making processes and to become role models within their local communities. Working closely with Eric Mulenga, CHEP’s accountant, David helped create a comprehensive strategy to improve the impact, performance and accountability of the organisation as well as addressing weaknesses in their reporting, budgeting and control procedures.

David said: ‘It was a very thought provoking experience. Kitwe is such a different environment from the UK. When working for an organisation battling against endemic HIV/Aids, TB and malaria it certainly puts in perspective what are our relatively minor problems’. AfID is committed to a long term programme of support for all its partners, involving many volunteers over several years. In comparison to a commercial assignment, progress is relatively slow; however, by focusing on people rather than processes, improvements become embedded and sustainable.

David achieved a great deal; advising on important changes to CHEP’s budget analysis, financial reporting and crucially, extending their cash flow forecasting period. He also managed to make several adventurous field trips to community groups in the local area, including one running a micro finance scheme near the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC – formerly Zaire).

For AfID’s new capacity building programme to become a real success it’s important there is continuity between their volunteers’ assignments. Catherine Crowther, another CIPFA member and an auditor with the Audit Commission was inspired by David’s assignment and will be following his footsteps with a trip to Lusaka later this year.

For more information about volunteering with AfID visit ‘with more and more charities approaching us each week it is crucial that we encourage more CIPFA accountants like David and Catherine to share their vital skills and help ensure organisations like CHEP receive the continuity of support they need’ – Neil Jennings, AfID’s founder