Also known as the “bloodhounds” of the finance industry, many people do not know what a forensic accountant is, let alone what they do and the value they bring. Here we provide some answers to these questions and give you additional insights into the world of forensic accounting.
WHAT IS A FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT?
Forensic Accountants are Specialists. When you get sick with the flu you go to a General Practitioner (GP), but when you break a leg badly you go to the Orthopaedic Surgeon (Specialist). In the same way, when you have a normal set of financial statements you want to get audited, presented and prepared for tax returns you go to an accountant; however, when you suspect misbehaviour, the possibility of fraud or something needing more specific investigation your port of call will be a forensic accountant.
As specialists in investigating fraud, prevention of fraud and doing relevant calculations, forensic accountants concentrate on a specific area of financial statements and they study and investigate that specific area in detail.
Like with your typical accountants – forensic accountants know, understand and can apply the general accounting principles (Tax, VAT, auditing etc.) and can make assertions used in financial accounting. However, what makes them different is that along with these financial accounting and auditing skills – they also have the skills to prevent, detect, investigate and report within their specific field of expertise. Their vast experience and specialised skill set sets them apart and also results in them being called to testify in court.
>> Forensic accountants want to know WHAT happened, WHY and HOW it happened?
Forensic accountants are tenacious and have an inbuilt drive to drill down to the true facts of a matter. They derive great satisfaction in figuring out the details. It is not an occupation for those sprouting personal opinion, wanting to get something done quickly or approaching a matter with pre-conceived ideas; it is an occupation driven by giving painstaking attention to the minutia – the small, often unseen, details – and how these details can eventually be used to tell a story. It is a very ‘paper-heavy’ occupation, with a large focus on the data – reading, investigation, research and writing of reports. Little time is spent with people. Something to keep in mind if you are considering a career in this field!
THE QUALIFICATIONS OF A FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT
Experience is extremely key in the role of the forensic accountant. As qualified accountants, they are degreed individuals (usually B Com Accounting or CASA), have practical on the job experience and have completed additional courses and training (ICFP & AFCP certificates, short courses on interview techniques and various soft skills etc). Forensic accountants learn the different tricks of the trade early on and are exposed to and understand the legal system in relative detail, often working with lawyers and even police on matters.
>> Interesting Fact: A degree in forensics is not widely offered in South Africa – only one university, The University of Potchefstroom, offers it at present. The knowledge and skill set required to become a forensic accountant is more commonly built up over time and with the successful completion of various courses and on the job training.
A forensic accountant’s unique skill set enables them to expand their services beyond fraud and investigations, to include consulting work, valuations, analysis of data, calculation of damages and accounting.
At Grid Forensic Accounting, we offer a number of services falling to the 3 categories of legal, business and personal. To find out more about what we offer, visit our services page, or contact us for a free consultation.
Secure the services of a bloodhound and contact Grid Forensic Accounting, today.