30 September 2022

As part of the work towards obtaining her PhD, Dr Ambe conducted a study investigating annual report disclosure as a vehicle for public accountability by South African PHEIs in terms of the 2014 DHET Regulations for reporting by PHEIs. The study was necessitated by the absence of disclosure measurement and quality assessment indices to assess the fitness for and of purpose of an annual report in terms of DHET Regulation for Reporting by PHEIs in SA, which leads to stakeholders' inability to hold accountable those charged with governance of PHEIs. 

Dr Ambe conceptualised and applied a Disclosure Measurement Checklist and Quality Assessment Checklist which led to the development of a Public Accountability Disclosure Index (PADI), Annual Report Quality Index (ARQI) and Public Accountability Model (PAM) for South African Public Higher Education Institutions.

The study investigated universities’ annual report disclosure as a vehicle for public accountability. Content analysis and the Delphi technique informed the development and application of a Public Accountability Disclosure Index, an Annual Report Quality Index and a Public Accountability Model.

It concluded that annual reports are not fit for purpose in ensuring public accountability and neither reflect nor integrate qualitative characteristics. The self-assessment tools are expected to assist the regulator in improving accountability and transparency.

Improving Public Accountability

"Public accountability and transparency can be improved if the regulator considers updating its regulation for reporting in line with the King IV Code of Good Governance and adding compliance, monitoring and evaluation framework as part of the regulation. PHEIs could use such a self-assessment tool or checklist to ensure the completeness and adequacy of their annual reporting to DHET and enhance public accountability," she says..

"The framework could be used to support the constitutional responsibilities of the Parliament Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training in ensuring the implementation of the provisions of sections 41 and 69 of the Higher Education Act.”

D Ambe further explains that the proliferation of the mainstream press on PHEIs public accountability by activists and media coverage will be enhanced by the monitoring and evaluation framework to justify their role as watchdogs of society, leading to improved governance, leadership, internal controls, and therefore enhancing public accountability.

“A shift is essential in providing contextualised rather than general information. A collaborative effort is required to hold PHEIs duty bearers accountable and equip PHEI executives to account to citizens. Fostering a direct, conscious, and strategic relationship between civil society, activists, and media through the employment of the monitoring and evaluation could improve public accountability by PHEIs, resulting in enhanced delivery of its socio-economic and developmental mandate,” she adds.

“Finally, monitoring and evaluation are expected to provide critical information to other stakeholders, indicating the level of accountability and transparency discharged by PHEIs through their annual reports.”

Dr Ambe holds a National Diploma, a Bachelor of Technology (Cost and Management Accounting) and an MBA. She has worked in university finance systems for over 20 years. Some of the institutions she worked at include Acting Director at the University of Limpopo where she was responsible for the development and implementation of Revenue Management Strategic Plan, Annual Performance Plan, policy and procedure manual, and communication strategy.

@ Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Picture Supplied.