Leadership Begins with You

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Josephine Amuron (Photo: Julius Kasujja)

African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation
Uganda

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Down a paved drive, nestled close to Kololo Hill in Kampala, Uganda, the African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST) is a civil society organization established to advocate for and promote investment in health leadership capacity building in African health systems. However, as with any organization, ACHEST itself faced challenges, and it is difficult for organizations to advocate for investments without first having their own books in order.

That is where ACHEST’s Finance team, Finance Manager Johnson Ebaju and Accountant Josephine Amuron, come in. Although Johnson and Josephine are certified accountants, they are not always familiar with every requirement needed to manage certain donor funds, like US Government grants. ACHEST partnered with the USAID-funded Leadership, Management, and Governance (LMG) Project and that relationship has helped Johnson and Josephine. “This project has been able to build our capacity to a great extent,” says Johnson, while reflecting on the partnership between the LMG Project and ACHEST.

“Before the LMG Project came in…” says Josephine, “we would spend a long time preparing a report, getting it ready, and understanding what has to be put where, doing the procurement, but our time has been reduced from what we used to do—for example you could take maybe a whole day producing a report—but now the time lag has been compacted, such that it is easy to produce a report, it is easy to work on an expenditure schedule, to plan travel, to procure something… the time has reduced, the stress has reduced, and the efficiency has increased.”

The LMG Project supported ACHEST to assess their financial management capacity. Johnson explained that, “the FinMAT tool, which was really an eye-opener...” was one of the first assessments carried out, and it helped to identify areas of improvement. One area of improvement was that ACHEST needed new accounting software, and they were able to quickly upgrade to QuickBooks.

In 2013, donors recommended that ACHEST be independently assessed on many areas, including their financial management capacity and programs, using the Clinical Assessment for Systems Strengthening. This assessment identified other gaps, but over the next two years ACHEST worked closely with the LMG Project to address, strengthen, and build capacity in these areas. When the assessors returned in 2015 for a re-evaluation, Johnson says, “the findings were extremely good for us.”

Looking back at ACHEST’s collaboration with the LMG Project, Johnson said, “it has been very helpful, looking at where we came from and where we are now. There has been tremendous improvement.” Reflecting on her experience working with the LMG Project and her confidence, Josephine shared a message for young women who may not see themselves as leaders, “leadership begins with you.”