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Priya Singh MC/MPA 2018 harnesses technology to improve public sector funding in South Africa.

By Calee Lucht
December 18, 2017

Home Country: South Africa

Priya Singh MC/MPA 2018

Education: Bachelor of Accounting, Science, University of South Africa 2009, Chartered Accountant (SA)

HKS Fellowship: Kistefos African Public Service Fellowship 

With a passion for economic development, Priya Singh has enjoyed a successful, decade-long career working in public sector finance and risk management. Before coming to Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), she served as chief financial officer for the Human Sciences Research Council in Pretoria, South Africa, her home country. Priya sees enormous potential in using empirical research in the fields of economic development, health and education to revolutionize and modernize how governments allocate funding. She also recognizes the need for competent, skilled leaders to design effective policies and controls for governance of public sector funding—and plans to be one of them.

“I see Africa as being on the cusp of a technology revolution, and South Africa has great potential to drive this on the continent. I intend to return to South Africa after graduation to work in policy development for the government where I can effectively influence decision-making related to the provision of funding—something I am passionate about.”

More specifically, she hopes to work towards the effective management of corruption in the public sector by using technology as a tool to minimize the intervention of human judgment and improve spending in public sector procurement. She also plans to introduce technology as an audit tool in order to automate predictable processes and enhance efficiency in the public sector.

"The funding I received from the Kistefos Foundation provided me with a wonderful opportunity to learn and hone essential leadership skills that are crucial for me to pursue my professional goals in South Africa."

Priya Singh MC/MPA 2018

In order to gain a foundation in policy and politics that will supplement her existing knowledge of compliance, governance and financial management, Priya enrolled in the Mid-Career Master in Public Administration, Edward S. Mason Fellow program at HKS.

At the Kennedy School, Priya joins the cohort of Kistefos African Public Service Fellows. She expresses her gratitude for the financial aid and support she received:

“The funding I received from the Kistefos Foundation provided me with a wonderful opportunity to learn and hone essential leadership skills that are crucial for me to pursue my professional goals in South Africa. I am passionate about making a difference and shaping a positive future for my country and for the African continent with my newly acquired knowledge and skills.”

She has been struck by the power of being part of a strong cohort of leaders from various countries, professional arenas and expertise. “Our perspectives on issues differ significantly, but the Mid-Career program provides a safe space to discuss and start thinking about how to solve these problems collectively and individually in our countries.”

Priya has done more than just think about solving problems—she is taking action as co-chair of the annual, student-led African Development Conference and as part of the Africa Caucus student organization.

“My view is that we can be part of the problem, or part of the solution. Too often, we complain about what's wrong, but make no effort to drive change. I want to be a 'change agent,' using the skills I learn to bring people along with me, and create the change I want to see in my country. My philosophy is to attempt to make a change and fail, rather than complain but remain silent.”

With her years of experience and education from the Mid-Career program, she plans to leave HKS with the acumen, commitment and motivation to initiate new policies, procedures and processes that will make a significant difference for the lives of the South African people.