The President, Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Auditors in Nigeria (CIFIA) Mrs. Victoria Enape on Wednesday said forensic accounting was vital to fraud control in any country.
Enape made this known during a Public Hearing organised by Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service chaired by Sen. Emmanuel Paulker.
The hearing was on four bills, namely Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Auditors in Nigeria; Chartered Institute of Finance and Control in Nigeria.
Others are Chartered Institute of Forensic Accountants of Nigeria; and the Institute of Mediators and Conciliators Bill.
According to Enape, if the bill for Chartered Institute of Forensic Accountants of Nigeria is passed “it will help Nigeria to have skilled professionals to deepen the fraud prevention, detection and preserve money in government treasury for infrastructural development that is fast disappearing in our country today”.
She disabused the minds of stakeholders at the session about the alleged conflict between the functions of the CIFIA and other institutes established by existing legislations.
“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”, she said.
Enape further noted that accounting profession had many branches with different responsibilities with professional bodies regulating their activities.
She added that the “auditing which has no professional body regulating it, 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 therefore believed that the bill on CIFIA would serve as a check to the financial statements prepared by accountants and also achieve the agenda of the federal government in combating fraud, corruption and other financial crimes in the country.
On his part, representative of the Institute of Forensic Accountants of Nigeria, Prof. Usman Ali Awheela commended the senate for the proposed bills, saying their members had not been allowed to practice forensic accounting since there was no backing law.
“Forensic accounting is the unique blend of education and experience in applying accounting, auditing skills and investigative techniques to uncover truth, form legal opinions in order to assist in litigation support”.
According to him, “forensic accounting professionals provide assistance on cases which are primarily related to calculation and estimation of economic damages and related issues that includes white-collar crimes”.
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 informed that the Institute had in 2009 established seven Faculties to provide training for members in their areas of specialisation, adding that they also provided specialist certification courses and issue certificates to qualified members as evidence of expertise and authority to practise their specialized skills.
He said “The Forensic accounting curriculum is carefully drawn to ensure that, to be a forensic accountant, one must necessarily be a qualified chartered accountant, be certain of technical competence and preserved professional integrity.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun said the relevance of forensic accounting globally could not be overstressed, noting that many countries across the world, including Nigeria had suffered from fraudulent practices.
The minister, who was represented by the Director of Home Finance in the ministry, Mrs. Olubunmi Siyanbola, however, chronicled the Federal gGovernment’s efforts in detecting and preventing fraud, including Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit, Efficiency Unit and Whistle blowing programme.
She, however, emphasised the need for Senate to “exercise caution such that the essence of professionalism is not destroyed in the course of creating new bodies”.
Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Emmanuel Paulker said the passage of the bill on Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Auditors in Nigeria would promote high ethical standards among members.