An evaluation of the implementation of GRAP by the South African Social Security Agency
Globally, the public sector implements appropriate and pragmatic international accounting standards. The importance of developing these standards is to ensure and enhance transparency and accountability of public funds, which result in well thought out and better financial decisions. The introduction and implementation of the recognised accounting practices (GRAP) in three spheres of government, namely, national, provincial and local government, are embedded in section 216 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (108 of 1996), the Public Financial Management Act (1 of 1999), and policy documents that support the legislative requirement. The study evaluated the South African Social Security Agency’s (SASSA) implementation of GRAP standards. The study aimed to understand the challenges that the accounting profession encountered during GRAP standards. There have been relatively few empirical studies specific to public entities that validated the advantages of accrual-based accounting in assuring a high-performance management system. Instead, most international research studied the migration from the cash basis of accounting to the accrual basis of accounting. Opinions differ concerning the benefits of implementing the accrual basis of accounting framework for external use in the public sector. Despite the limited empirical evidence and academics arguments, the implementation of the accrual basis of accounting framework is viewed appropriate for the public sector because it follows the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). However, the claimed benefits are questionable. This study contributes to the existing body of knowledge by providing detailed important generic strategic GRAP standards implementation guidelines. External and internal stakeholders should follow these guidelines to address the challenges encountered, implement new GRAP standards, and enhance teaching and learning at higher education institutions. The guidelines provide holistic solutions to three spheres of government, which are national, provincial and local inclusive of other public entities, and other African and international countries that implement the accrual basis of accounting framework, influenced by IPSAS, in public entities. The researcher followed a qualitative research approach to yield descriptive data obtained from individuals’ written or spoken responses using interview questions, amongst other methods. Triangulation was adopted for collecting data. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to generate data by asking predetermined qualitative questions. Interviewing was used as data collection instrument because it is less structured than questionnaires and is not guided by any preconceived expectations or judgments. Furthermore, an interview is more qualitative in nature and allows more flexible exploration of issues while still providing rich detailed responses. The study’s target respondents consisted of employees who were purposely selected to respond to the interview questions. Reasons for selection included respondents being involved in decision-making as seniors in SASSA, their level of skills, immense knowledge and years of experience, and a required background in financial accounting, the financial system, training, and organisational development. The study used inductive analysis because it is suitable to use with interviews. The study results highlight that the perceived potential benefits of implementing GRAP standards are not realised due to the challenges encountered by SASSA. These challenges are similar to the challenges encountered by other countries that implement IPSAS in the public sector. Therefore, it is critical for SASSA and other public entities that implement GRAP standards or IPSAS to note and address the challenges encountered. It is recommended that all spheres of government departments, which are national, provincial and local inclusive of the public entities, and other African and international countries that implement or intend to implement GRAP standards, strictly follow the developed pragmatic and measurable strategic GRAP standards implementation guidelines as well as develop internal control measures. The pragmatic and measurable strategic GRAP standards implementation guidelines and internal control measures should be regarded as a monitoring and evaluation tool in realising the potential benefits of GRAP standards.