Gavin Hinks, journalist

Who would have thought there are similarities between triathlons and ACCA training? But Rodoula Athanasiou FCCA, chief accounting officer for the Water Board of Nicosia in Cyprus, insists that there is.

In training for an upcoming event, Rodoula is enthusiastic about the demands of cycling, running and swimming over a sprint course. But she draws a close comparison between the commitment required for triathlon and ACCA.

‘It is a challenging and fulfilling experience because triathlon participants can lead by example, teaching lessons about hard work, discipline and perseverance.’ Just like ACCA training. And if anyone has shown persistence, it is Rodoula, who has spent over three decades with the water board in a multitude of roles.

‘I’m proud that the board has become a model example of a digital and green public sector organisation’

Pushing for change

Working for a water company in a climate like Cyprus’s has its challenges and Rodoula has seen the business pushing for change. The board oversees a network that circulates water to 150,000 customers in Nicosia through 2,500 km of pipes via pumps that were installed in the 1950s and drawing water from reservoirs as well as, increasingly (thanks to climate change) supplies processed by desalination plants.

The board has also been a pathfinder in Cyprus by becoming the first public body to introduce digital billing. The digitisation project has been an enormous success, with 80% of customers now managing their water bills online. ‘I’m proud that the board has become a model example of a digital and green public sector organisation,’ says Rodoula. ‘This is a significant step toward digitisation.’


Chief accounting officer, Water Board of Nicosia, Cyprus

Billing project manager, Water Board of Nicosia

ACCA International Assembly representative for Cyprus

Head of procurement, Water Board of Nicosia

Health and safety coordinator, Water Board of Nicosia

Internal control officer, Water Board of Nicosia

Joined Water Board of Nicosia as a receptionist and moved on to various roles, including billing assistant, payroll associate and medical fund administrator

More digital transformation is to follow; with the backing of the EU, Nicosia is in the midst of a project to install smart water meters in every home. This should allow digital measurement of water usage and automated calculations of bills. ‘For Cyprus and for the public, this is a significant change,’ says Rodoula.

‘The biggest risk in the public sector is that you face resistance to change’

But there is another change under way, too: the organisation’s forthcoming amalgamation with three other bodies – sewage, solid waste disposal and building permits – to form a new local government organisation, with Rodoula as chief accountant of the consolidated body. In addition, the board is in the process of introducing International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS).

While Rodoula concedes that amalgamation will be challenging – ‘The biggest risk in the public sector is that you face resistance to change’ – she believes that the transition to new standards will be smooth, especially as the board already used accruals accounting. ‘Their major advantage is that they give us financial credibility through the comparability they provide,’ she says.

Commitment to serve

Rodoula joined the Water Board of Nicosia as a receptionist at 18, a year after leaving school and following a spell studying public relations. Since then, she has served as a billing assistant, payroll associate, medical fund administrator, internal controls officer, accounts payable assistant, treasurer, headed the procurement department, and finally began work as chief accounting officer in March. Staying in the same organisation for 30 years demonstrates Rodoula’s loyalty, commitment, and her ability to adapt to changes within the organisation. ‘My focus has always been on continuously updating my skills and participating in significant change initiatives and leadership roles,’ she says.

‘Being an accountant is what I love the most; it’s a global passport’

Rodoula credits the ACCA qualification – which she gained in 2004 – with instilling in her its core values. When she describes her relationship with the organisation, she uses a local saying: ‘ACCA is my strong heart,’ she says. ‘Being an accountant is what I love the most; it’s a global passport.’ That relationship has been reinforced since 2022, when she became Cyprus’s representative on ACCA’s International Assembly.

‘As the current International Assembly representative, I have had the valuable opportunity to directly engage with ACCA students and members in Cyprus allowing me to develop a deep understanding of their needs, concerns, and aspirations,’ Rodoula says. ‘My vision is to act as the voice of ACCA members in Cyprus, increasing professional networking, addressing the members’ concerns, advocating for their needs, seeking feedback to understand their priorities and preferences, and to use this information to shape ACCA’s international strategy.’

Telling stories

With such a challenging day job, Rodoula has found the perfect way to de-stress: as a volunteer guide at Nicosia’s AG Leventis Gallery. ‘It’s a good opportunity to develop my communication, public speaking and storytelling skills. The most important thing is the storytelling behind each painting,’ she says, adding that it also gives her a chance to admire her favourite artist, the Cypriot painter Adamantios Diamantis.

If there is a story to tell about Rodoula, it is her three decades of loyalty to the same organisation where she has been willing to change and adapt.

‘Failure comes when you stop,’ she says. ‘If you don’t stop, you won’t fail.’