New course

Ilse Lubbe, associate professor

UCT’s College of Accounting blazes trail with new programme in public sector accounting. The new postgraduate diploma in Public Sector Accounting addresses crucial financial skills shortages in the public sector – the first accounting programme of its kind in South Africa.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) College of Accounting has launched a new postgraduate diploma in Public Sector Accounting (PSA) to address the critical financial skills shortage in the public sector.

According to course convenor, associate professor, Ilse Lubbe, the programme is a first of its kind that tackles the public sector at this level in South Africa and focuses on financial management, audit and governance, and financial reporting.

“Government in general in South Africa needs knowledge and capacity. Many CFO (chief financial officer) positions are not filled with people who hold the necessary academic qualifications, which is part of the reason financial reporting in the country’s public sector is not up to scratch,” Lubbe says.

She says meetings with government officials, auditors and chartered accountants revealed that there’s a great need for more financial expertise at middle and senior levels of government. “That’s why the National Treasury was so eager to be involved, it (the department) sees a direct link for them to build capacity,” Lubbe says.

The National Treasury also contributed to the development of part of the course curriculum, which focuses on four key areas: public sector financial reporting, public sector structures and functions, audit, risk management and ethics, as well as public financial management. Part of the curriculum includes detailed explanations of the various statutes and regulations and controls and audit mechanisms officials deal with daily.

Lubbe says an important part of the curriculum works towards enhancing attributes such as leadership, team interaction, communication and critical thinking skills.

An essential element of the course is lectures facilitated by external experts in the public sector, who help students gain knowledge on current developments in the field, as well as develop insight into the practical application of theoretical and technical concepts, and gain a holistic understanding of issues affecting the public sector.

“The intention is to benefit not only public sector organisations by addressing skills deficits, but to enrich the career opportunities of individuals already working in the field,” she says.

Head of the College of Accounting, professor Mark Graham says: “The public sector has become an area of specialisation; as a result, the skills acquired in traditional accounting programmes are not adequate for the public sector environment. We are fully committed to helping government and its officials to obtain the necessary financial skills they need to meet the country’s economic objectives.”

More than 30 students have already signed up for the first student intake for 2015 and Lubbe says she’s working on making more bursaries available.  

To qualify for the programme students should hold a three-year general accounting BCom degree or an equivalent, subject to UCT’s admission requirements. But, employees in the public sector with limited or no formal qualifications and extended work experience will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

PSA has since been endorsed by the South African Institute of Government Auditors (SAIGA). And the College has established close links with the Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA), National Treasury, South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) and South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA) while developing this qualification.

Lubbe says: “Close relationships with government institutions and industry bodies is key to ensuring that the curriculum remains current and relevant. We are delighted by the interest and support that the development of postgraduate diploma has received from stakeholders in the sector.”

The Postgraduate Diploma in Public Sector Accounting commences in February 2015. For more information or queries about the programme, please contact

Sibahle Melane










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Issue 58