Aziz Bouchelaghem is responsible for ensuring that the financial information of The Union and its branch offices and affiliates is accurately recorded and maintained, information vital to supporting The Union and its activities around the world.
“Training in Financial Accounting does not prepare you for a career in the non-profit sector…only real-life experience does that…” So says Aziz Bouchelaghem, Global Account Controller for The Union, responsible for ensuring that the financial information of The Union and its branch offices and affiliates is accurately recorded and maintained. It is the quality of this information that is vital to supporting The Union and its activities around the world.
Aziz joined The Union in 2006. The public health, non-profit sector was his first introduction to a career in finance. “I came by chance,” he explains. “When you study accounting, you are not taught about the non-profit sector so I was not thinking about working in public health. Training in accounting is all about profit maximisation through efficient use of resources. But in finance for public health, the focus shifts towards people and projects. My aim for The Union is therefore not necessarily profit (though we may make one), my aim is efficiency. Efficient use of resources, people and value for money is critical to ensuring financial stability.”
This focus on efficient resources is evident through The Union’s work in local communities worldwide. “In 2009, I was tasked with beginning the implementation programme for a type of software in all our offices around the world. At the onset, it sounded routine, until I realised that once all our country offices were operating the new software, we could access everything we needed instantly – and act swiftly too. These things make a difference to the communities we are trying to help, where such decisions can be life-changing.”
In 2014, Aziz visited Uganda to install and implement accounting software which supported the programmatic activity of The Union in that country. “I was struck by how happy people are to meet a representative of The Union – it means a lot to them and they are grateful for what The Union is doing for their country. When you are part of finance, you offer support which is different from that of a frontline doctor, whose work entails direct interaction in the field, so meeting people locally, hearing their stories and their appreciation was amazing.”
He adds, “While I was there I learned about the issues around TB detection – and how good budgeting provides solutions. For example, the provision of a GeneXpert testing machine, crucial to helping our colleagues diagnose TB and test for drug resistance, demonstrated to me that finance has done its job and made a difference.
“I feel strongly that our role is to support doctors, nurses and other technical staff in their work and enable them to deliver their expertise where it is most needed. Without rigorous budgeting and financial reporting, their work is hampered. It may even become unsustainable. It is as simple as that.”
Aziz thrives on some of the more unusual challenges his work entails.
“I strongly believe in the cause to end TB. Achieving this will support a country’s overall development. I have seen first-hand that TB is not something that happens in isolation, it impacts on communities, on livelihoods, on families, on the environment. I am proud to be part of this adventure.
“World TB Day (24 March) is actually my birthday – I think it’s a sign that I was meant to be at The Union.”