Forensic audit requires analysis of financial transactions and compilation of the information for use in court of laws. Forensic Auditors are appointed to identify the financial statement frauds. Reports produced by the forensic auditors are typically presented in the court of laws as financial evidence.
Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) often calls for forensic auditors to review the financial records of the listed companies. There are different types of frauds investigated by the forensic auditors for SEBI. In the large scale crackdown on shell companies, auditors were asked to provide their observations on the financial information.
Court cases requiring financial evidences may include identification of conflict of interest, commercial litigation, business valuation, insolvency and fraud.
Companies engage forensic auditors to answer specific questions. Bankers ask questions about trail of money, whereas government may ask restated financial statements. Hence, there is no standard format for forensic audit report. Forensic auditors must provide the requested information and provide sufficient evidence to be presented in courts.
Companies commit financial statement frauds to announce improved financial performance. IL&FS, which expressed its inability to pay off the debts, indulged into complicated scheme of financial statement fraud. Subsidiaries booked losses, but holding company ensured bonuses to top management. This was result of creative accounting.
Forensic auditors came to limelight after the government nominated board took over troubled IL&FS. Observations made by forensic auditors were significant for further action against guilty individuals. Many individuals responsible for the mess of IL&FS were arrested by the law enforcement agencies. Duty of forensic auditors is not restricted to quantification of personal gains to culprit. They are required to produce comprehensive trail of the funds to and from the business accounts of the culprits.
Certifications for Forensic Audit Profession
Forensic auditor requires knowledge of specific areas of investigative accounting and auditing techniques. These include court procedures, legal research and the ability to recognize criminal activity. A forensic accountant must understand more than just fraud. She also must understand insurance claims, insider trading, and legal contracts.
Indiaforensic Center of Studies and the NSE Academy, among others, are notable certification providers for forensic audit profession. The aspirants chose the certifications based on their area of expertise. Such as the aspirants from accounting firms may opt for Certified Forensic Accounting Professional course. On the other hand, public accountant may go for specialisation in Stock Market Forensics. Members of select institute of certified professionals can get waivers in writing all papers.
These certifications play a vital role in understanding investigative techniques used by the expert professionals in investigating the financial statement frauds.
Forensic Audit Procedures
Forensic Auditors go much beyond the financial reporting standards and internal control lapses. They try to understand the intent. Fraudulent intent is very important to prove the fraud in the courts of laws. There are four primary stages of any forensic accounting engagement
- Plan the investigation – It is necessary to understand the exact question of the client. The forensic auditor plan his investigation to achieve audit objectives. Objectives could be assessing exact amount of frauds, executives involved in manipulating company financials etc
- Collecting Evidence – The evidence collected should be accurate. Evidences should substantiate the financial damage assessments based on accounting records.
- Reporting – Since there is no template, forensic audit reports differ in format but have the same objectives. A good forensic audit report clearly documents the findings of the investigation and refers the evidences collected during the process.
- Court Proceedings – Forensic Auditor is considered as the expert witness. In the court proceedings he needs to explain the importance of evidences. They should simplify the complex accounting issues.
To Summarise, forensic audit is an exciting career path for those who are looking to go beyond obvious.