Imperative of forensic and investigative auditing in Nigeria

With the increasing rate of fraud in the public service, there can be no better time for the National Assembly to expedite action on the Chartered of Forensic and Investigative Auditors (CIFIA) Bill that is before it than now World over, there is a paradigm shift from traditional auditing practice to skillful deployment of science and technological tools.
These tools are engaged to detect or resolve financial fraud or expose possible criminal activity concealed in financial accounts.
The players in this field are anti-fraud professionals, whose backgrounds span accounting, law, criminology, cybersecurity, banking, police detectives, forensic, among others.
At present, a global network of forensic and investigative auditors has metamorphosed into the Association of Forensic and Investigative Auditors (AFIA), with headquarters in Canada.
In Nigeria, AFIA members are operating under the umbrella of Chartered of Forensic and Investigative Auditors in Nigeria (CIFIA), while the CIFIA Bill is currently before the Senate.
The bill, jointly sponsored by Senators Ahmad Lawan-Yobe North, and Andy Uba-Anambra South, went through second reading on Jan. 31, 2018.
Speaking at a senate public hearing on March 14, Dr Victoria Enape, CIFIA President, said that forensic and investigative auditing was a veritable tool in fraud control.
The public hearing was organised by Senate Committee on and Public Service, chaired by Sen.
Emmanuel Paulker.
The hearing was on four bills Chartered of Forensic and Investigative Auditors in Nigeria; Chartered of Finance and Control in Nigeria.
Others are Chartered Institute of Forensic Accountants of Nigeria, and the Institute of Mediators and Conciliators.
According to Enape, if CIFIA bill is passed, it will help Nigeria to have skilled professionals to deepen fraud prevention and detection and also preserve money in government treasury for infrastructural development.
“CIFIA, when passed, will save Nigerian government the cost of inviting forensic auditors for fraud investigation as it were; to some large extent, it takes only Nigerian forensic auditors who know the terrain to be able to track or investigate fraud successfully.
“This body will strengthen the anti corruption fight by partnering with relevant government agencies in training agents and staff through to certification on use of science and technology vis a vis forensic and investigative skills for auditing of financial statement.
Adeosun “It will strengthen the nation’s institutional frameworks, thereby bringing us at par with other developed countries, in line with global standards and competitiveness.
“It will answer the question often posed by foreign investors as to the safety and guarantee of Direct Foreign Investments (DFIS) in Nigeria.
’’ She stressed that the CIFIA was not in conflict with any other established institution or body as the role of the institute was clear.
“CIFIA should not be seen as a rival to ICAN, just as CIFIA is not seen as a rival to ANAN.
“Nothing stops an accountant from becoming a member of ICAN and CIFIA, or any other professional body for that matter.
” Enape further noted that the accounting profession had many branches with different responsibilities and professional bodies regulating their activities.
“Auditing has no professional body regulating it, this gave the opportunity for financial accountants to claim autonomy, and as a matter of fact leads to their inability to control and prevent fraud, corruption and other financial crimes’’, she said.
She said the CIFIA Bill, if passed, would monitor and serve as a check to the financial statements prepared by accountants and also help the Federal Government fight fraud and other financial crimes in its agencies.
Paulker, on his part, said the passage of the CIFIA Bill would promote high ethical standards among members.
“This is in a bid to stamp out cases of compromised auditing in the country,” he said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Ephraim Eke, a policy analyst, said that collusion in financial matters had gone beyond paper works, but digital manipulations; hence the need to deploy the expertise of forensic and investigative auditors.
He said that instead of opposition, stakeholders should be excited that some people in Nigeria were keying into global best practices in auditing.
In his reaction, Alhaji Sharrif Muhammad, Director, Budget and Planning, Supreme Court, said that the CIFIA as an institution in Nigeria was long overdue.
He said that the lapses inherent in the traditional accounting and auditing method had impacted negatively on the nation.
“Scientific method auditing is what trends in the modern world; in it, there is evidential proof that can be used or tendered in the court of law.
“Lack of evidence has deterred the ability of prosecutors to pursue their cases to a logical conclusion; anti-graft agencies are losing cases because of the inability of their prosecutors to provide evidence.
“Forensic and investigative auditing provides the why, how, when, where and what has been perpetrated.
“It goes beyond statistical or accounting data; it probes into the antecedents, the loopholes that brought about such crime and provide solutions to forestall further occurrence,’’ he said.
However, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), kicked against the proposed bills, saying “their functions and responsibilities were already contained in the 1965 Act that established the Institute and would therefore amount to needless duplication of functions’’.
ICAN President, Mr Ismaila Zakari, said that the Institute had in 2009 established seven faculties to provide training for members in their areas of specialisation.
Reacting to the opposition to the bill, Enape said that the bill did not amount to duplication of duties as Nigeria had no other body in the field of forensic and investigative auditing.
She appealed to the senators to disregard those appealing to them to throw out the bill.
“Our bill is not any sort of duplication; it is not a threat to any professional body in Nigeria; as we speak, there is no professional body in Nigeria that has forensic and investigative audit in their act-it is verifi able.
“We are the first to come out with a bill of this kind; if any professional body is seeing us as a threat, I want to tell them that there is no threat.
“Our professional body is a step up of what has been on ground; what has been on ground is not adequate; it is as a result of the inability and inadequacies of traditional auditing to sniff out fraud, that gave rise to a new professional body called CIFIA.
“This is a new trend in the whole world, though it just came to Nigeria; if it has helped other countries to eradicate fraud and corruption, it will also help Nigeria.
’’ Enape said that CIFIA did not emanate from Nigeria but from Canada, where it was headquartered; hence it could not be merged with a professional body that emanated from Nigeria.
Stakeholders are of the view that based on the wide range of areas forensic and investigative auditors’ expertise can be deployed, passing the CIFIA bill has become imperative

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