In November 2017, three officials from Provincial Treasury travelled to Berlin, Germany to attend the GIZ Winter School on Good Financial Governance. Dian Cronje shares his experience.
On a warm summer’s afternoon in November, Mr Isac Smith, Ms Analiese Pick and myself found ourselves en route to Berlin, Germany on a long haul flight via Paris, France to attend the biennially Winter School on Good Financial Governance. Equipped with our passports, an impressive collection of thermal underwear and a keen willingness to learn about the German approach to good financial governance, we were brimming with excitement.
The Winter School, which was held over 5 days, took place at the quaint NH Hotel in Alt-Treptow, an industrial borough flanking the banks of the River Spree in the south-eastern suburbs of Berlin. The course was structured into daily lectures, presentations and theoretical panel-discussions on a wide variety of themes relating to GFG and public finance reform initiatives including, but not limited to, domestic resource mobilisation, fiscal decentralisation and the capacitation of internal audit functions. Presentations were extremely topical, conveying the perspective of academic scholars and active GFG practitioners alike.
It became evident throughout the course of the week that the South African, and specifically the Western Cape approach towards public financial planning, budgeting and implementation, could hold its own amongst some of the best practices in the world. So much so that my colleagues and I were inundated with questions, queries and even requests for delegations from neighbouring countries to travel to Cape Town to observe our budgeting processes.
Our time in Berlin soon came to an end and it was with great sadness that we had to say goodbye to our new friends to travel back to Cape Town. We however left feeling inspired and confident that we established professional relationships which will lay the foundation for future inter-governmental cooperation to the ultimate benefit of the people of the Western Cape.
This was however not yet to be the end of my European adventure. It was brought to my attention prior to our departure to Berlin that the Springboks would be playing France in Paris the day after the end of the Winter School. Being a fanatic South African sports fan, I couldn’t let this opportunity slip through my fingers and when Isac and Annelize departed back to Cape Town, I took some leave and boarded a plane for Paris where I met up with my wife. That evening we braved the cold (and endless jibes from French fans) to support the Boks in a close-fought victory over the home team at the impressive Stade de France. It was an absolute surreal experience to sit amongst 60 000 French supports who passionately belt out the words to their national anthem, the La Marseillaise.
Over the next 5 days we explored the sights, sounds and smells on offer in Paris, walking down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, battling to get a view of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, eating pastries at small bustling cafes and even visiting the Stade Roland-Garros, home of the famous tennis tournament. My wife and I are both avid road runners so we also snuck in a quick race, participating in the Boulogne-Billancourt Half Marathon.
From a monetary perspective, I returned home a very poor man, deeply hurt by my wife’s fondness for Starbucks coffee (at €4 a cup, it’s no laughing matter) and a R17/1€ exchange rate. Intellectually and spiritually I however returned as a millionaire, wealthy with new-found knowledge and an enhanced appreciation for the manner in which this opportunity contributed towards my professional and personal development.