The continuous rise in accounting fraud and other traditional frauds have recently placed high demand in the services of forensic accountants and their services. This increased demand for qualified accountants that specialises in investigative aspect of accounting has opened up doors of opportunity for those that can combine accounting and fraud examination principles and techniques.
As the importance of accounting in the wider community continues to grow, the role of accountants in fighting fraud also continue to be appreciated amongst business leaders, thereby making it the right time for anyone to consider pursuing career in forensic accounting.
This article is specifically written for those that are looking to get forensic accounting job. You may want to stop reading at this point if the interesting muscle flexing that characterises this ever evolving legal and investigative aspect of accounting called ‘forensic accounting’ is not what you can boast of.
MEANING OF FORENSIC ACCOUNTING
Forensic accounting is the application of accounting principles, concepts, procedures, and conventions in the analysis of financial statement frauds and other investigative processes that involves accounting. The aim of the investigative process is to provide evidence that will be admissible in the court of law. Part of the job description of a forensic accountant is to collate, organize, analyse, interpret and communicate financial evidence in a secured form.
The advent of computer and information technology shifted the focus of accountancy practice and this shift in focus has helped shape the methods of forensic accounting analysis. Most accounting software in the market now have the capability of creating audit trail that financial forensic experts leverage on to demystify an otherwise mysterious accounting or financial fraud.
Forensic accountants provide litigation supports in legal proceedings involving the manipulation or misappropriation of finance. Accountants with investigative skills are for instance called upon to use their expertise in uncovering bankruptcy or divorce fraud.
FORENSIC ACCOUNTING QUALIFICATION AND DEGREES
Just like every good opportunity in life, there is always a price to pay to in order to reap the benefits that comes afterwards. To benefit from the huge employment and consulting opportunities that abound in forensic accounting, you need to acquire the necessary skills and experience.
The first step in the journey to becoming a forensic accountant is to join any recognised accountancy professional body in your country, write the relevant exams, and meet the work experience requirement. Accomplishing above requirements means that you have laid the foundation upon which to build your investigative accounting career.
Some universities now offer both BSc and Masters Programme in forensic accounting. In as much as these are invaluable qualifications to get, you still need to be professionally qualified before you can be licensed to practice. Am yet to know any country where someone with just academic qualification is allowed to practice as a forensic accountant. I have been in a gathering where people were debating on the of fraud examiner to act as a forensic accountant. The fact is that these are two different but somehow connected disciplines. A certified accountant armed with the necessary investigative tools and skills can be act as a forensic accountant, but a certified fraud examiner no matter how knowledgeable in accounting cannot act as a forensic accountant.
Once you have crossed the hurdle of getting qualifications and/or certifications, you will then start building your soft skills that are very essential for success in undertaking major forensic accounting assignment. You may want to join any fraud examiners association of your choice to get further qualifications and training.
One major trend that you cannot to overlook in the forensic and investigative aspect of accounting in this modern day and age is the concept of ‘big data’. The idea behind big data is to continuously and in real-time basis filter relevant information from huge data. This is the backbone of continuous monitoring and continuous auditing used by most successful businesses to minimize fraud incidence.
For you to be successful as an investigator in accounting and finance, you need to be conversant with the provision of the law. Many forensic accountants that acting as expert witness have landed themselves in trouble that they never bargained for simply by violating privacy law of a jurisdiction for example.
You also need to familiarise yourself with the form and format of presenting your findings. One thing you should not forget as a forensic accountant is ‘not to perform your analysis and interpretation on the original copy of any subject matter’ always makes a bit stream of your target object before commencing your investigation.