Forensic accountants utilizes accounting, auditing and investigative skills when conducting an investigation. Equally critical is their ability to respond immediately and to communicate financial information clearly and concisely in a courtroom setting. Forensic accountants are trained to look beyond the numbers and deal with the business reality of the situation.
Forensic accountants are multi-disciplinary and have a wide range of experience in the forensic and investigative field. They are frequently called upon to serve as expert witnesses and litigation consultants.
As forensic accountants you may be working in areas such as:
- Investigations, both criminal and civil;
- Preparation and review of evidence;
- Preparation of expert reports;
- Affidavits and proof of evidence;
- giving oral evidence in court;
- Expert determination, arbitration, mediation or alternative;
- Dispute resolution;
- Insolvency support investigation; and fraud prevention and awareness strategies. and etc
Qualified forensic accountants are able to provide attorneys with a variety of approaches to successfully resolve claims and disputes. From early stage advisor to expert witness, forensic accountants give knowledgeable advice throughout the commercial or regulatory litigation process in an effort to ascertain and develop key financial data.
They can provide expert witness testimony supported by effective analysis, trial support by analysing materials and developing approaches to support the direct and/or cross examination process and comprehensive support for settlement scenarios.
So what does it take to become a forensic accountant? Apart from a need for the same basic accounting skills that it takes to become a good auditor, to be a forensic accountant you need to have the ability to:pay attention to the smallest detail;
- pay attention to the smallest detail;
- analyse data thoroughly;
- think creatively;
- possess common business sense;
- be proficient with a computer and; have excellent communication skills;
- A “sixth sense” that can be used to reconstruct details of past accounting transactions is also beneficial;
- A photographic memory helps when trying to visualise and reconstruct these past events.
A forensic accountant also needs the ability to maintain his composure when detailing these events on the witness stand and should be insensitive to personal attacks on his professional credibility.
One thing forensic accountants learn when conducting fraud investigations is that you can never assume, what appears to be one thing on the first glance often turns out to be quite different when examined closely.
An increasingly complex business environment and the growing tendency for people to take legal action has led to the demand for accountants who understand the legal process, and who can conduct investigations, financial analysis and other accounting or audit procedures at a level acceptable to the courts.
Forensic accountants gather information to form an opinion, which is generally expressed in a report or given as expert evidence in court. Due to the diversity of commercial matters which are brought before the courts, a Forensic Accountant’s work is often far more challenging and interesting than the traditional compliance or statutory reporting work undertaken by many accountants in professional practice.
The key areas of work for Forensic Accountants are:
Quantification of Damages and Loss of Profits – assessing the effect on profitability, cash-flow, income or value, that a party claims to have incurred, or may incur, as a result of either a breach in a contract, personal injury, product liability, breaches of the Trade Practices Act or Fair Trading, etc.
The Forensic Accountant may also need to consider the impact of other circumstances on the claimed loss, and the degree to which the loss was mitigated or could have been mitigated in order to determine the actual loss incurred.
Valuations – determining the value of shares, businesses, partnerships, intangibles, etc in dispute, lost or destroyed. The Forensic Accountant must review information as both a financial analyst and as an investigating accountant, making appropriate adjustments, where necessary, and applying a generally accepted, or arguable, methodology to determine the value.
Professional Negligence – reviewing transactions and the actions, or inaction, of various professionals to determine whether the parties were negligent and, if so, to what extent.
When a review involves an accounting professional, a keen knowledge of the applicable accounting standards and the prevailing law is required. Therefore, the Forensic Accountant must have the ability to identify the impact and timing of changes in law and procedures.
Fraud – investigating frauds, and establishing procedures to prevent or detect fraud.
Forensic Accountants are frequently called upon to investigate frauds, identify the appropriate documentary evidence, quantify the loss and to assist in the prosecution of those involved.
Family Law Matters – assessing the existence, value and ownership of the financial resources available to parties in matrimonial dispute. This type of work requires excellent communication skills when dealing with related party small family businesses where the personal emotions of the parties involved as frequently the financial information being considered frequently contains a mixture of business and personal transactions with tax driven results.
Forensic Accountants need to have an interest in and the aptitude to develop accounting, auditing, financial and investigative skills to recognise, document and analyse information frequently from hostile or opposing parties-that is required to form and support an opinion.
The Forensic Accountant must have the confidence and ability to respond immediately to questions raised in court. Further, and potentially even more important than knowing the answers, the Forensic Accountant must be able to communicate often extremely technical and complex financial information in a manner that will understood by the court.
Based on the above information, the members of the institute of Forensic Accountants (IFA) Nigeria Perform the under listed duties;
- IFA Members perform an orderly analysis, investigation, inquiry, test, inspection, or examination
in an attempt to obtain the truth and form an expert opinion.
2. IFA Members give evidence in Federal and State Courts
3. IFA Members develop complex financial models, which identify key drivers in business, and
facilitates planning and forecasting.
4. IFA Members assist lawyers in litigation cases.
5. IFA Members are experts in business investigation and valuation for litigation and forensic
6. IFA Members help in alternative dispute resolution, arbitration, economic loss claims, loss of
profit claims, professional negligence, fraud investigation.
7. IFA Members perform forensic accounting and litigation support services, including the provision
of written and oral evidence in Courts of Law.
8. IFA Members act as expert witness and as Consulting experts, including preparation of expert
reports and or giving oral testimonies in tribunals and courts.
9. IFA Members are in a range of other Forensic Accounting activities, which includes a wide range
of fraud risk management engagements.
10. IFA Members play a role to help management of organizations, Internal Auditors and or External
Auditors to better understand the true nature and extent of fraud and related risk and how to
manage the risks.
11. IFA Members gives advice on capital rising for Clients.
12. IFA Members conduct due diligence enquiries, preparations of public reports and expert evidence.
13. IFA Members help in matters that are subject to complex arbitration procedures.
14. IFA Members help in investigations into collapse of organization
15. IFA Members render services and assist companies involved in Capital rising and floats.
The jobs of the Forensic Accountants are too numerous as the above are just a few of them.