THE IMPACT OF FORENSIC ACCOUNTING SERVICES ON FRAUD DETECTION AND PREVENTION AMONG COMMERCIAL BANKS IN NIGERIA

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CHAPTER ONE: INRODUCTION

            Background to the Study

Considerable scandals that have been experienced in recent years in commercial banks in Nigeria have reduced the confidence to financial and non financial statements leading to improved regulations governing both the banking sector and the accounting practices as well. Due to this, forensic accountancy as a profession with its services as litigation support, consultancy expert testimony and fraud auditing (investigation accountancy) filled a large gap in prevention of such frauds. History has shown that despite the presence of Sarbanese-oxley legislation of 2002 in the United States and the publishing  of Higgs Report and Smith report in the UK in 2003 in response to the collapse of Enron and other big companies in US, employees have continued to manipulate even the best internal controls available for their own personal gain.

These scandals have financially devastated employees and investors and severely harmed the reputation of auditors, analysts and corporate managers. It is in realization of this that various initiatives have been put into place to enhance and enforce the applicability of forensic accounting services by use of the right people, tools, techniques and insight to prevent and detect fraudulent activities and to ensure that the applicability of such services are effective. Modern Information technology has even increased the pace of electronically manipulated frauds in the complex business environment. According to Fraud Survey of KPMG (2008), the total value of fraud reported was $301.1 million with an average value for each organization of $1.5million in Australia and New Zealand of 420 organizations surveyed which represented 20% of the 2018 surveys distributed.

In May 2011 in a response to spiraling fraud cases, the CBK demanded an audit of automated payment processing systems operated by commercial banks after their investigations showed the rising cases of fraud were in fact being initiated by bank employees at the point of entry of information into their internal payment systems.

Due to this, this study focused on the impact of forensic accounting services on fraudulent practices in the commercial banks in Nigeria. Theoretical prediction indicated that, the application of Forensic Accounting Services helps to prevent fraud occurrence in the commercial banks. According to Gollwitzer (1990), the mindset of a fraud specialist will lead them to search for pertinent information pertaining to frauds. When people are much aware that their fraudulent activities were to be disclosed by the application of forensic accounting services, they feared to commit fraud in the banking industry.

                  Overview of Fraud

Fraud itself comprises of large varieties and includes bribery, political corruption, consumer fraud, business employee fraud, network harking, bankruptcy divorce fraud, identity theft or even the theft of confidential information. It is a deceptive trick, scam, game, artifice, cabal which is committed to cheat ,mislead someone and contributing something useless to something in order to gain advantage (Institute of Turkish History, 1998). KPMG’s fraud survey (2003) reveals that more companies are recently experiencing incidences of frauds than the previous years. According to Pickett (2007), many top managers view fraud as a taboo and rather boring subject, preferring not talk about it at all. This is because investigating fraud means exposing weak controls and even leads to reputational damage of the organization and reanalysis of accounting information. Taking measure to combat fraud and launching new anti fraud initiatives in

response to the Sarbanes-Oxley act of 2002 (KPMG, 2003) has succeeded to combat some financial crimes.

Mislead of financial statements users and increase of commercial disputes, accounting frauds and cases at courts, with the increases such as creative accounting and vague accounting have supported the need of this profession. As the bank strives to expand the business processes, the management is faced with the difficulty of supervising many people at a time making it impossible for managers to follow track of their employees. This makes it easy for employees to commit fraud. Employees naturally become well educated on the inner workings of a company and know where the gaps and weaknesses are (Coenen, 2008). The most recent ACFE survey indicated that 61% fraud schemes were perpetrated by men, while 39% were committed by women. The study notes, however, that fraud committed by men is more costly (Coenen, 2008).

Banking Fraud Investigation Department (BFID) also identified that forensic auditing was compromised within the banks as the sections often fall under either internal audit or security departments, which threatens their independence and integrity. Their recommendation is to set up independent forensic units within the banks, as well as ensuring a separation of duties preventing a single person from originating and completing an assignment of entry. They also emphasized the need for dual control of sensitive areas like strong rooms and locks to security documents and accounts. Deloitte reported that bank fraud tripled to an estimated Kshs 3 billion in 2010, approximately four percent of the total sector profitability over the same period.

PwC Nigeria identified the following fraud types in their 2011 Financial Focus: 1) Electronic; manipulation of electronic files, circumvention of information technology controls by those with superior administrative rights or by management, unauthorized penetration mechanisms and 2) Non-electronic fraud; cash theft (including planned robberies), identity fraud especially as regards applications for loans, mortgages and  other financial accommodation facilities, card skimming, phishing and cheque fraud.

                  Nature of Forensic Accounting Services

Chilvers (2000) defines “forensic accounting” as the use of investigative techniques, integrated with accounting and business skills, to develop information and opinions for evidence in court and for use by expert witnesses. Dhar and Sarkar (2010) defined Forensic Accounting as the application of accounting concepts and techniques to legal problems. It demands reporting, where accountability of the fraud is established and the report is considered as evidence in the court of law or in administrative proceedings. The complex nature of forensic accounting is part of appeal to many accountants to enter the field (Kranacher et al.2008). Due to the common nature of the various definitions reside in the areas of litigation services, accounting investigation and preparing court ready evidence all of which are of great importance to the banking industry. Forensic accounting may be one of the most effective and efficient ways to reduce and prevent fraudulent activities as it is concerned with the evidentiary nature of accounting data, and as a practical field concerned with accounting fraud and forensic auditing; compliance, due diligence and risk assessment; detection of financial misrepresentation and financial statement fraud (Skousen and Wright, 2008) .

The forensic accountants draw conclusions, calculate values and identify irregular patterns or suspicious transactions by critically analyzing the financial data. It provides  an accounting analysis to the court for dispute resolution in certain cases and it also provides the courts with explanation the fraud that has been committed (Adrian, 2009). This is the reason why forensic accounting may play a vital role in detecting and reducing accounting frauds in the banking sector and as he says Jeyarathmm (2008), quality influences greater efficiency, higher productivity and high quality goods and services. It means that less time is actually spent reworking and correcting mistakes that were committed earlier due to carelessness or negligence.

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