THE PRACTICAL ROUTE TO BECOMING A REGISTERED GOVERNMENT AUDITOR
This section provides the reader with a short overview of how to qualify as Registered Government Auditor (RGA)
WHAT IS A REGISTERED GOVERNMENT AUDITOR?
A Registered Government Auditor (RGA) is a professional who is specifically equipped to audit in the public sector. The RGA’s competencies are described in a document titled: Common Body of Knowledge and Skills for Registered Government Auditors (COBOKS for RGAs).
Auditing (in the private and public sectors) is no longer generic as the environment in the public sector differs substantially from the private sector. Not only does the entire approach (profit driven as opposed to service delivery driven) differ, but the culture of the public sector, and the specific Acts and Regulations are completely different. In addition to this, the public sector accounting standards are different, ethical codes differ, to mention but a few. The RGA qualification was designed and developed to address these differences.
Most RGAs apply their professional talents in the Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA), but their knowledge of financial management, public sector accounting (GRAP), internal control systems, and other competencies, equip the RGA to accept senior posts in the broader public sector, such as Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and senior financial managers.
RGAs are also highly sought after by private sector auditing firms, as these firms assist not only the AGSA in performing audits the public sector, but the firms also provide a range of consulting and accounting services to the broader public sector.
Given the wide range of organisations that are audited by the AGSA, the RGA continuously changes scenery, moving from national and provincial departments, to local authorities, to public entities and constitutional institutions. Many of the organisations that are audited by the AGSA dwarf the largest listed companies in the private sector in size.
The Southern African Institute of Government Auditors recognises the Registered Government Auditor as the highest level of professional qualification with regard to public sector audit.
The Southern African Institute of Government Auditors is recognised as a professional body by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) for the purposes of the National Qualifications Framework Act, Act 67 of 2008. The professional designation “Registered Government Auditor” (RGA) is registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) for the purposes of the NQF Act of 2008.
The AGSA has also recognised the RGA as a professional qualification.
THE PRACTICAL ROUTE TO QUALIFY AS A REGISTERED GOVERNMENT AUDITOR (RGA)
The RGA entry requirements can be broken-down into the following four phases:
- Formal education at a tertiary institution
- Government auditing experience
- The Government Auditing Specialism Programme
- The Qualifying Examination for Registered Government Auditors
1. FORMAL EDUCATION AT A TERTIARY INSTITUTION
The prospective RGA will have to obtain a qualification complying with certain minimum requirements as later set out in more detail. The philosophy followed is that a three year business orientated degree /diploma (as specified) will provide the general and basic knowledge and skills needed to function in an interdependent economy. These basic skills and supportive subject content are not defined in this curriculum. All tertiary institutions engage in extensive and on-going curriculum research to ensure that their formal programmes are market orientated and meet the needs of all major role players in the economy.
Whilst certain differences and nuances may occur, as far as curriculum content of the various tertiary institutions is concerned, COBOKS rather focuses on minimum knowledge and skills levels which complement core knowledge and skills unique to the RGA.
The RGA registration requirements are:
Three year training program (degree/diploma) at a registered* tertiary institution.
Minimum required subjects which have to passed successfully are:
- Financial Accounting (three full years)
- Auditing (two full years) – excluding internal auditing
- Management Accounting (two full years)
- Taxation (one full year) •Computer Information Systems (one full year)
- Commercial Law (one full year) •Statistics (one full year).
Note: the Institute acknowledges that tertiary institutions may use different names for the above generic subjects.
* Registration refers to registration with the Department of Higher Education and training in South Africa. Designations or qualifications conferred by professional bodies do not qualify.
2. GOVERNMENT AUDITING EXPERIENCE (GAE)
SAIGA in consultation with AGSA, changed the leanership period at AGSA from four years to three years, effective as of 1 January 2015
The prospective RGA (trainee auditor) must gain his practical experience in the public sector and in a government auditing environment. This specifically defined (public sector) auditing experience is referred to as Government Auditing Experience (GAE). Taking into account the mandate which the Auditor-General South Africa South Africa (AGSA) is given by the Public Audit Act, a large portion of the RGA’s Government Auditing Experience has to be certified by the AGSA. The AGSA therefore acts as a partial certification authority with regard to the Government Auditing Experience requirements.
The Common Body of Knowledge and Skills for Registered Government Auditors (COBOKS for RGAs) requires that a candidate completes three years of Government Auditing Experience. this experience has to be gained whilst working for or within the AGSA (or other accredited GAE provider) and whilst registered as a trainee auditor with SAIGA.
But the GAE requirements go beyond merely serving time with an accredited employer. During the GAE period, the trainee auditor has to meet the requirements of eleven Experience Bands as set out in this document.
Other entities (for example firms of Registered Auditors) can also be accredited as GAE-providers. If they comply with the relevant criteria, they can apply for accreditation to the Institute. This provision is aimed at those firms that are acting as “authorised auditors” as defined in Sections 1 and 12 of the Public Audit Act. Where the audit staff of these accredited firms is involved in audit work for the AGSA this may classify as Government Auditing Experience and the staff members may consequently comply with the GAE-requirements by being in the employ of such an accredited GAE-provider.
The fourth year of practical experience can be gained by working in auditing / accounting-related fields in the wider public sector, including government departments, local authorities, public entities, governmental contract work or internal audit in the public sector. If the fourth year is not served in the AGSA (or other accredited GAE-provider), the trainee auditor has to submit documentary proof of employment and experience in the public sector to the satisfaction of the Institute’s Executive Committee (EXCO). The documentary proof will consist of a letter on the public sector entity’s letterhead and signed by a senior staff member (with the rank of Director of higher), certifying the exact period for which the trainee auditor was employed by this entity.
If the fourth year is not served in the AGSA (or other accredited GAE-provider), the trainee auditor should ensure that he meets all the requirements of all Experience Bands; complete his record of practical experience and have it submitted and evaluated by SAIGA and that he receives a GAE completion letter before leaving the employ of the AGSA (or other accredited GAE-provider).
3. THE GOVERNMENT AUDITING SPECIALISM PROGRAMME (GASP)
GASP IS A RGA-REQUIREMENT
All candidates who wish to qualify as Registered Government Auditor (RGA) have to enroll and successfully complete the Government Auditing Specialism Programme (GASP).
FORMAT OF GASP
Since GASP was designed in 2008, the competence requirements for RGAs have evolved considerably andthe needs of the AGSA, as far as professional staff is concerned, have also changed. Taking into accountthe above, an Extended Government Auditing Specialism Programme (E-GASP) was developed. It came into effect in 2014. For ease of reference any reference to GASP is meant to refer to the new format (EGASP).
During the period 2008 to 2013 the Government Auditing Experience (GAE) requirements and certainExperience Bands in particular required trainee auditors to attend a number of compulsory coursespresented by the Institute. The GAE compulsory course requirements are no longer applicable and thecompulsory courses’ contents have been incorporated into the Government Auditing SpecialismProgramme (E-GASP).
Following a thorough review of the Common Body of Knowledge and Skills (COBOKS) for RGAs andrequests from the Auditor-General (South Africa) [AGSA], the requirement that a candidate needs anadditional fourth academic year, before being allowed to enrol for GASP, was changed (to three years and the minimum required subjects) and the GASP programme was extended to focus on specific knowledge and competence gaps such as GRAP which is not normally found in the accounting syllabus of tertiary institutions in South Africa. E-GASP was therefore specifically designed to meet the needs and requirements of the AGSA with regard to its professional staff and to discount the shortages of the Accounting programmes at South African universities.
GASP 2015 will once again be running over four weeks, starting on 15 August and finishing on 11 September 2017. A formal assessment will be written over three days from 11 – 13 October 2017. The assessments are written after completion of the four weeks’ training. The (RGA- QE) is written on 22-24 November 2017. GASP is based on the following educational concepts:
- Attendance of specific training interventions (a number of multi-day Modules).
- Self-study assignments/extended reading.
- Three-paper summative assessments/simulated qualifying examinations.
Candidates can enrol for GASP 2017 as from the beginning of February 2017. The last day to enrol isThursday, 26 May 2017
Candidates are allowed to enrol for GASP if they meet the following criteria:
A three year degree or diploma from a tertiary institution registered with the Department of HigherEducation and Training in South Africa.Minimum required subjects which have to be passed successfully are:
- Financial Accounting (three full years
- Auditing (two full years) – excluding internal auditing (Note)
- Management Accounting / Financial Management (two full years) (Note)
- Taxation (one full year)•Computer Information Systems (one full year)
- Commercial Law (one full year)
- Statistics / Research Methodology (one full year)
Note: Students with a BCom Accounting degree from the following institutions: Rhodes University, KZN University, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), University of Cape Town and University ofthe Witwatersrand only need a one year Auditing and one year Financial Management Course on third year level.In order to enrol for GASP it is not a requirement that candidates have completed their period of practical training. If they pass the RGA-QE, they do, however, first have to complete their period of practical training before being allowed to register as RGA.
GENERAL APPROACH DURING GASP
The Government Auditing Specialism Programme forms the core of the RGA competencies development. GASP is designed to address certain shortcomings in the academic programmes of tertiary institutions. Although these academic programmes are currently used to meet the RGA subject requirements (particularly the subjects of Accounting and Auditing), they do not include the public sector topics that form the basis on which the government auditor’s competencies are applied, for example:
- The Constitution of South Africa
- The PFMA
- The Treasury Regulations
- The MFMA
- GRAP (for departments and local authorities)
- The Public Audit Act
- Performance auditing
- Forensic auditing
- Auditing of performance information.
These specialist public sector topics are now in a mature stage of development and through GASP, RGA- candidates receive the necessary specialist knowledge required to be a competent government auditor. By following the Government Auditing Specialism Programme candidates receive more intensive exposure to and training in public sector / government auditing specialist topics.
The seven four-day Modules form the core of the GASP training intervention. Between the various Modules candidates will have to do additional reading and self-study and also prepare and submit a number of assignments based on the course contents of particular Modules. Details will be communicated to candidates during the lectures. Not all Modules will require the submission of formal assignments, as Modules of practical application will take preference. The assignments will be prepared and assessed by SAIGA. Each GASP Block is completed by the writing of summative assessments (one four-hour assessment after Block 1 and three three-hour assessments after Block 2). The last three summative assessments are designed to mirror the RGA-QE format.
Successful completion of GASP is determined based on the following criteria:
A. Satisfactory attendance of the seven GASP Modules.
B. The cumulative mark of the various assignments.
C. The summative assessment mark (the average % of Papers 1 to 4).
NOMINATION AND REGISTRATION PROCEDURES
Applications for GASP 2017 have to be submitted directly to SAIGA as soon as possible after the application process opens in February 2017. All applications, with all required documents and forms attached, must be received by the SAIGA Secretariat no later than Thursday, 26 May 2017 by 12:00.
4. THE QUALIFYING EXAMINATION FOR RGAS (RGA-E)
All prospective RGAs have to pass the Qualifying Examination for Registered Government Auditors (RGA- QE) (the required aggregate pass rate is 50%). The RGA-QE consists of three four-hour written examinations papers which are set by the Education & Training Committee of the Southern African Institute of Government Auditors and evaluated by the Institute’s Examination Board (EB).
All prospective RGAs have to pass the Qualifying Examination for Registered Government Auditors (RGA-QE) (the required aggregate pass rate is 50%).
Paper 1: The first paper focuses on the regulatory framework for government auditors. The PFMA, MFMA, Treasury Regulations, Public Audit Act, the Constitution, INTOSAI Code of Ethics, current developments in auditing, the King Code of Corporate Governance as applicable to public entities.
Paper 2: The second paper focuses on public sector accounting topics. GRAP for departments and local authorities, preparing annual financial statements for government departments, basic accounting principles.
Paper 3: The third paper focuses on government auditing and related topics. International Accounting Standards (IAS), IAS applied to the AGSA’s audit manuals, performance auditing, auditing of performance information, forensic auditing and information technology- auditing perspectives.
The successful completion of the three-year degree / diploma, the required subjects (as specified), and the successful completion of the Government Auditing Specialism Programme (GASP) is a prerequisite for writing the RGA-QE, but the completion of the practical requirement is not. This means that candidates can write the RGA-QE during their period of practical training.