Member Profile: Tony Diesel, South Africa Partners

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May 04, 2016

Member Profile: Tony Diesel, South Africa Partners

Funders and partners at South Africa Partners’ ASELPH graduation at the University of Pretoria.

By Elizabeth Walsh

Director, Communications and Marketing InsideNGO

Starting with this issue of The Insider, we’re launching a new member profile series on our blog that features InsideNGO members talking about the work they do and how they manage the operational challenges within their organizations. In this post, we highlight South Africa Partners Country Director Tony Diesel, who is based in Johannesburg. Since 1997, South Africa Partners has been building mutually beneficial partnerships between the United States and South Africa in the areas of health and education.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your current job responsibilities.

A: As the Country Director, I am responsible for all South Africa Partners (SA Partners) operations in South Africa, supporting program administration, financial management, and supervision of all program and administrative staff in country. As a senior representative of SA Partners in South Africa, I am responsible for owning the organization’s agenda, successfully executing it and representing the organization at meetings; identifying opportunities for strategic partnerships, funding opportunities and program growth, and working proactively with HQ to bring to fruition; and developing strong relationships with key stakeholders in government, at both national, provincial, and different administrative levels, as well as international agencies, NGOs, and donors.

It’s also my job to ensure appropriate staffing, training, and oversight of planning, budgeting, project implementation, reporting, and monitoring progress; as well as to maintain appropriate bi-directional communication and information flow with HQ to ensure the organization’s capabilities are being fully leveraged on the ground; and guide and manage the team to successfully implement ongoing projects, meet/exceed quantitative target commitments to donors, and leverage outcomes for program growth.

I also oversee the development and use of routine internal monitoring and evaluation processes, and compliance with external reporting protocols; draft reports, articles, fact sheets, and issue briefs on SA Partners SA projects; and oversee SA Partners South Africa offices in operational capacity, infrastructure and communications.

What are some of the biggest operational challenges/issues you see in your organization on a regular basis?

We have to work within a strict budget and stay within the USG rules and regulations as most of our funding comes from the PEPFAR funds. We also have to ensure that the staff understand the restrictions and rules that apply to the projects, which creates a need for regularly updating and reinforcing operational procedures

What strategies/tactics do you use to respond to these challenges/issues?

We hold regular update sessions on USG rules and regulations and actively give instruction when changes are made.

In addition, our program managers receive an updated budget of their programs monthly so that they can plan their activities accordingly. This enables the staff members to grow their project management skills as well as understand the importance of forward planning and coordinating work that needs to be done.

Let’s talk about governance. How do you and your leadership team build a culture of compliance within SA Partners—both with your own organizational policies as well as with donor funding regulations?

The staff of the organization receive training on the regulations and rules that apply to their projects. This is not only for the program managers or finance-related staff, but for all staff who are on the ground and operationalizing the program activities.

We follow a structured orientation program for new staff that come into the organization. This covers a number of key aspects including organizational policies, donor regulations as well as organization culture. The various staff who oversee aspects such as procurement, payments, and HR are part of the presentation team during the orientation of new staff.

The Board is structured to ensure that good governance is applied throughout the activities of the organization.

My role as Country Director is also to ensure that the in-country activities are compliant with the organizational and funders policies and regulations.

How do you foster professional growth and development among your staff?

We have a staff development plan for staff members to ensure that they are skilled to do their tasks effectively. We encourage participation in other organization’s training activities. Often a partner organization will have a program to skill staff in a particular topic, and invite other organizations to join in. We also look for workshops that are being provided and send staff to those that are applicable to their work, provided it is affordable.

What do you perceive as the value of your InsideNGO membership for your organization?

It is great to be able to access a worldwide network of colleagues who are doing similar work to myself when there are questions that need to be answered. The online resources are great to find some input for answering questions that I have in the implementation of my work. Overall, the learning and sharing are a great benefit for us.

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