CPAs in service: Making an impact in Canada and around the world

Like legendary accountant George Edwards before her, Lt.-Col Eleanor Haevens carries on the tradition of CPAs who have had a profound impact by serving with or alongside the Canadian military.

Photo credit: Canadian Army Public Affairs

 

When was the last time you thought about exactly how your monthly paycheques get into your hands? Those intricate systems help keep the country's economy moving forward, but many of us might take them for granted. For Canadian soldiers serving at home and abroad, the movement of money and supplies can spell the difference between mission success and failure, between life and death. This responsibility (and higher calling) is one that Lt.-Col. Eleanor Haevens knows better than most.

 

Higher purpose

Haevens, Commander of the 3rd Canadian Division Support Base Edmonton Technical Services for the Canadian Armed Forces, graduated from Royal Military College in 1999 and received her CGA designation in 2005. While she had always wanted to be an accountant, she also saw higher purpose to her financial training. Shortly after graduating, Haevens put that training to use in Bosnia, where she was deployed for six months, from September 2002.

“I was what's known as a paid accounting officer on that mission,” says Haevens, now 40. “I dealt with all the soldiers' pay and soldiers' benefits, but also paying suppliers.” Because the banking system had failed during the war, UN forces had to go to Croatia and Germany to get money. While any theatre of war presents inherent danger, working in a place where cash is king posed unique risks. Haevens says that because it was ultimately easier and safer to use a local bank, the Canadian Forces took it upon themselves — with NATO support — to help rebuild the local system. “It was a really big accomplishment and something we were very proud of.”

I had the money

In 2005, Haevens was deployed to Kandahar, where the focus was on “defence, diplomacy, and development,” she says. While her role was partly financial, her main focus was working with the Afghan national army and local police forces to rebuild police stations, get equipment and vehicles, and provide logistical support.

The Afghan experience was not without its challenges. “Originally there was some discussion whether I could even go and do that job because I was a woman,” she notes. “When we'd first get there, maybe they [the suppliers] looked to the men. But as soon as it was made clear that I was the person who sort of made the decision or had the money, so to speak, we didn't have a lot of issues.”

The scrupulous Edwards

Haevens continues in the spirit of her fellow CPAs who have served in the armed forces, including George Edwards (1861–1947), a pioneer of the profession. He served as president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario and the Dominion Association of CAs, and as founding president of the Society of Cost Accountants of Canada (precursor to the CMA). It's no exaggeration to say that his insistence on developing nationally recognized industry qualifications laid the early groundwork for today's CPA Canada.

Perhaps Edwards' greatest contribution to Canadian statehood was during the Great War, when he filled the critical position of controller and auditor of the Imperial Munitions Board. The IMB, overseen by the scrupulous Edwards, was established by Prime Minister Robert Borden after scandals plagued its predecessor.

Its scope of operations was overwhelming: by war's end the IMB was overseeing production of $2 million worth of goods every day including ships and aircraft, and almost one-third of all British artillery shells. Systems to track inventory flow and the initiation of continuous auditing by Edwards fostered trust in IMB’s accuracy, timeliness, and value of production. Edwards has left many lasting legacies; his improvement of systems supporting financial stability is one reason he was granted the rare Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).

For profession and country

In the present age, Haevens is currently preparing her young family for another big move, this time to NATO's Joint Force Command comptroller branch in the Netherlands, assisting with the budgeting and disbursement of funds for NATO missions. She says she's excited to be “getting back to my accounting side” — although she expects to be out in the field in the not-so-distant future. On or off the field, her CPA training has given her the tools for success: “I think our ability to kind of go and really see it and to be a part of it and to own it — we're able to bring that back, either at headquarters or back in Canada, to really understand what's going on on the ground and to be able to help.”

George Edwards' example of commitment to profession and country clearly continues well into the 21st century. For her part, Haevens understands that while hers is a supporting role in Canada's military efforts, it remains critical. “We help influence and educate them [commanders] to be able to make decisions about money and how it affects people and how it can be a force multiplier.”

 

Stay tuned for more stories about the people and the events that contributed to CPA Canada’s rich history as Canadians prepare to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

About the Author

Matt O'Grady

Matt O’Grady is the former editor-in-chief of BC Business and is currently collecting and curating heritage stories from CPA Canada and its constituent legacy organizations.