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PROJECT TOPIC: FORENSIC ACCOUNTING AND THE NIGERIAN CAPITAL MARKET DEALINGS (A CASE STUDY OF NIGERIAN STOCK EXCHANGE, LAGOS STATE)

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

  1. BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Fraud and corruption have affected the living condition of citizens of third world countries negatively and Nigeria is not an exception. It is alarming and indeed devastating. Globally, fraud and financial irregularity are severe problems of concern. It is a major concern to developing nations especially in Africa. Individuals perpetuate fraud and corrupt practices according to the capacity and opportunities open to them in their organization. The proliferation of e-commerce has led to an increasing e-fraud in recent times, which in turn has meant an increasing demand for forensic accountant except where there is no regulation, individuals or organizations affected by the fraudulent or corrupt practices will want to seek redress using institutions like the police and the law court. In more recent times, the accountancy and legal professions work very closely, with forensic Accountants acting as expert financial witness in court cases. So, far from being a new practice forensic accounting except for Nigeria has long being part of accounting profession. While it took the back seat in the early 20th century with general accounting taking a greater role, it is now merely returning to its traditions. Today, forensic accountants are involved in a wide range of cases from more mundane family law and commercial matters through wide range criminal investigations. In Nigeria, there are growing financial fraud cases, bank failures, recent stock market scans, allegation of wide- wipe out of the finances of the Nigerian stock exchange, failure of non-banking financial companies and failure of regulatory mechanism. To curb it requires extra investment in forensic accounting skills. Other studies have examined the link between regulatory structures and incentive to corruption. Several sources of corruption arise when pervasive regulations exist and government officials have an excessive degree of discretion in applying them. Private parties may be willing to pay bribes to government officials in order to obtain pure rents that the regulations may generate.

Tanzi [2013] argues that the problem become worse when regulations lack simplicity and transparency. Prior to the latest economic downturn the accounting profession had already undergone radical changes as a result of the Enron and Worldcom debacles as well as other accounting scandals. With the spotlight on the accounting profession, a new market with a breed of accountants – forensic accountants has emerged. This has led to an increase in demand for forensic accounting services as the public deals with financial collapses. There is also increase in white collar crime and growing occurrences of occupational fraud. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, (2008) ACFE estimates that occupational fraud losses cost organizations nine hundred and ninety-four billion dollars ($9946) annually. The various organized and sophisticated frauds witnessed recently in the corporate world, posed a major threat in the trust and confidence shareholders, investors and the general public had in the published financial statements. The normal auditing processes appear not to be adequate hence forensic accounting is becoming a fashionable area of study. Financial misappropriation and irregularities has been a very big problem of concern all over the world. It is so common both in private and public sector organizations that almost every individual cannot wash his/her hand clean of it. This form of fraud is widely committed ranging from the presidency through the state government to the lowest that is local government. In private company it ranges from the managing directors of a company, through middle management cadre and as low as messengers. Individual perpetrates fraud and corrupt practices according to the capacity of the office. Accounting fraud is an act of knowingly falsifying accounting records, such as sales or cost records, in order to boost the net income or sales figure. The magnitude of public office fraud, together with the extent to which citizens are affected is a call for alarm. Accounting fraud is illegal and subjects the company and the executive involved to civil lawsuit, company officials may resort to accounting fraud to reverse loss or to ensure that they meet expectation from shareholders or the public. David (2005) states that fraud can be better prevented if decisions are made by a group and not an individual. Presently in Nigeria the attempt by the government to fight fraud is being frustrated by fraud fighting back through judicial system. The only way to solve this issue is that the public should be enlightened or educated on the use of and functions of forensic accounting to reduce or detect fraud occurrences. There is need to overhaul the accounting profession in order to equip them with the new skills that will help restore the lost confidence of shareholders and investors over financial statements. In order to sanitize the accounting profession there should be need for skilled professionals that can identify, expose and prevent weaknesses in the areas of poor corporate governance, poor internal control and fraudulent financial reports. In a bid to overcome weaknesses above, a new breed of accountants called Forensic Accountants has come up. It is expected that the forensic accountants will help to solve the problem of fraud in the corporate world and to bring to bear versed knowledge of accounting, law, finance investigation and skills necessary to sanitize the corporate world.



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