What is Forensic Accounting ?

ďAuditor should be watchdog and not be the bloodhoundĒ. Itís a good quote that every auditor should know. This quote makes the definition of Forensic accountants even more simple. The forensic Accountant is a bloodhound of Bookkeeping. These bloodhounds sniff out fraud and criminal transactions in bank, corporate entity or from any other organizationís financial records.

They hound for the conclusive evidences. External Auditors find out the deliberate misstatements only but the Forensic Accountants find out the misstatements deliberately. External auditors look at the numbers but the forensic auditors look beyond the numbers.

Forensic accountant takes a more proactive, skeptical approach in examining the books of Accounting. They make no assumption of management integrity (if they can assume so then there is no need for their appointment) show less concerns for the arithmetical accuracy have nothing to do with the Accounting or Assurance standards but are keen in exposing any possibility of fraud.

The traits of the forensic Accountants could be compared to well bake Pizza. The base of forensic accounting is Accounting knowledge. Size and the extent of baking decide the quality of the Pizza. A middle layer is a dispersed knowledge of auditing, internal controls, risk assessment and fraud detection. It is like the spread of the cheese in Pizza. The toppings of this Pizza are a basic understanding of the legal environment. The legal environment is essential in order to support the litigations. The Cherry on the toppings of the pizza is a strong set of communication skills, both written and oral. It is just the beautification part. Perfect combination of the Pizza base, Cheese spread and good toppings makes the pizza delicious and the Forensic Auditor the perfect. Itís a combination that will be in demand for as long as human nature exists.

Forensic accounting is application of a specialized knowledge and specific skills to stumble upon the evidence of economic transactions. The job demands reporting, where the accountability of the fraud is established and the report is considered as evidence in the court of law or in the administrative proceeding.

In addition to the specialized knowledge about the techniques of finding out the frauds one needs patience and analytical mindset. One has to look beyond the numbers and grasp the substance of the situation. It is basically the work of the intelligent accountants.

He needs to question seemingly benign document and look for inconsistencies. He searches for evidence of criminal conduct or assists in the determination of, or rebuttal of, claimed damages.

He requires the ability to think. Far from being an ability that is specific to success in any particular field, developing the ability to think enhances a personís chances of success in life, thus increasing a personís worth in todayís society.

Sherlock Holmes was probably the most famous practitioner being the Forensic Chemist. But the Kautilya was the first economist who openly recognized the need of the forensic accountants. He mentioned forty ways of embezzlement centuries ago.

The Opportunities for the Forensic Accountants are growing at the rapid speed. Collapse of Enron and WTC twin towers have blessed the American Forensic Accountants with the opportunities.

In India the formation of Serious Fraud Investigation Office is the landmark creation for the Forensic Accountants. Growing cyber crimes, failure of regulators to track the security scams, series of co-operative banks bursting - all are pinpointing the need of forensic accounting, irrespective of whether we understand the need or not.

In the Indian context the Forensic Accountants are the most required in the wake of the growing frauds. The law enforcement officers are the experts of analyzing the fingerprints and the Narcotics but what about the digital evidence analysis. Very few know about it.

Itís a thrill of hunt. Maurice E. Peloubet who coined the term Forensic Accountant in 1946 said that the preparation of financial statements has some but not all of the characteristics of forensic accounting.

This statement is enough for the chartered accountants in India to foray in this field. It is new child on the block. Both CBI and CID cops do the forensic accounting work. Until recently there was no separate community in India. But now movement of Indiaforensic community is gathering the pace.

The growing number of regulator and the administrative agencies will demand the services in the nature of forensic practice. Chartered Accountants are going to find themselves more involved in what is essentially a type of forensic practice. The changing nature of the Accounting and Auditing & assurance standards also confirms this.

Nearly 40 percent of the top 100 American accounting firms are expanding their forensics and fraud services, according to Accounting Today. If this data is of some sense to Indian scenario then the day is not far away when forensic practice will contribute maximum to the total revenue of the Indian CA firm. Far from the humdrum stereotypic accountant your mind might have initially conjured, the forensic accounting professional is more of a private investigator with a financial sixth sense than the bookkeeper with a green eyeshade.

Authored By: CA Mayur Joshi