Implementation of Forensic Accounting on Fraud Detection: Case Study of Lagos, Nigeria

Prof. Godwin Emmanuel Oyedokun

Professor of Management & Accounting,

Lead City University, Ibadan

godwinoye@oyedokungodwin.com;

+2348033737184, +2348132445878

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Being a Paper Presented Virtually at the International Conference of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiner, Indonesia, themed “Implementation of Forensic Accounting on Fraud Detection (Case Study in Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, Nigeria, United Kingdom and United States)” on December 18, 2021.

  1. Introduction

Fraudulent activities can encompass many cases, including money laundering, cybersecurity threats, tax evasion, fraudulent insurance claims, forged bank cheques, identity theft, and terrorist financing, and is prevalent throughout the financial institutions, government, healthcare, public sector, and insurance sectors. Detecting various kinds of fraud even where it’s least expected has been aided by forensic accounting techniques, training, and implementation in countries of the world (Nigeria inclusive) through investigation, analysis, and litigation support.

Forensic accounting knowledge grows through training, awareness, and experience with investigating officers and legal counsel. However, problems occur because forensic accounting service is still new to most Nigerian businesses and public organizations. In contrast, some accounting professionals, law enforcement agents, and litigation officers have continuously used their expertise and influence to cover investigations, prosecution, and promote anti-social practices. Forensic investigation reports in the public space indict accounting professionals and auditors. Many local and foreign investors have lost an unaccountable sum of money to fraudsters (both within and outside their employment) because of corruption, thereby reducing or even dis-investment from Nigeria and its attendant negative consequences on economic growth. Hence, the study examined the concept of forensic accounting, fraud detection and presented two famous fraudulent cases in a Nigeria-based multinational company in Lagos. 

2.0       Concept of Forensic Accounting

Forensic accounting, forensic accountancy, or financial forensics is the specialty practice area of accounting that describes engagements that result from actual or anticipated disputes or litigation. “Forensic” means “suitable for use in a court of law”, and it is to that standard and potential outcome that forensic accountants generally have to work. Forensic accountants, also referred to as forensic auditors or investigative auditors, often have to give expert evidence at the eventual trial.

2.1 Definition of Forensic Accounting

Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) in 2012 defines forensic accounting as follows “Forensic accounting is the use of professional accounting skill in matters involving potential or actual civil or criminal litigation including but not limited to general accounting and audit principles and concepts in the determination of lost profits, income, assets or damages, evaluation of internal control, fraud and other matters involving accounting expertise in the legal system.

Oyedokun (2018) gives a comprehensive definition of forensic accounting “as a scientific accounting method of uncovering, analyzing, resolving and presenting fraud and white-collar crime matters in a manner that produces admissible evidence which is capable of providing or disproving fact in issue suitable in the court of law.

Forensic accounting is a particular type of financial knowledge which aims to detect and prevent fraud and other crimes. Forensic accountants strive to detect and resolve financial and accounting problems in the company’s operations, whether as a result of lack of professionalism and ethics, applicable accounting, audit, investigative and thinking skills (Koletnik & Wheeler, 2008).

Forensic accounting is a scientific method of uncovering, resolving, analyzing, and presenting fraud matters in a manner acceptable in the court of law. This has been criticized as not covering the intent of forensic accounting and its full scope. (Oyedokun, 2014). Limiting the definition to fraud matters skewed it too close to the meaning of fraud examination or fraud investigation. Forensic accounting can be described as a specialized accounting field that investigates frauds and analyses financial information to be used in legal proceedings. Forensic accounting uses accounting, auditing, and investigative skills to investigate theft and fraud. It encompasses both litigation and investigative accounting.

According to Oyedokun (2017), forensic accounting is a scientific accounting method of uncovering, analyzing,  resolving, and preventing fraud and white-collar crime matters in a manner that produces admissible evidence capable of proving or disproving facts in issues suitable in the court of law. Forensic accountants apply special skills in accounting, auditing, finance, quantitative methods, certain areas of the law, research and investigative skills to collect, analyze and evaluate evidential matter and to interpret and communicate findings”. [Hopwood, Leiner & Young, (2008)].

Owojori and Asaolu (2009) in Yakubu and Oyedokun (2021) concluded that forensic accounting is the best growing accounting area that enhances the chances of success in the day-to-day life of a corporate firm by surmounting all the vexing and critical problems of the corporate field as a panacea. It is the investigation of fraud or presumptive fraud to gather evidence presented in the court- litigation support.

2.2 Types of Forensic Accounting

  1. Investigation Auditing
  2. Litigation Services
  3. Criminology
  4. Accounting

2.3 Importance of Forensic Accounting

  • Complex Litigation

Many of today’s financial disputes require specialized attention that even knowledgeable attorneys cannot provide. Forensic accountants can lend a hand by deciphering complicated economic issues and relaying them in a way that both attorneys and their clients can understand. Forensic accountants may also be investigative in civil cases, working with attorneys to find unreported income or assets.

  • Government Investigations

Forensic accountants’ investigative abilities can be put to good use in civil legal disputes and larger government investigations. For example, forensic accountants can play a chief role in tracing complex money trails in major criminal investigations. Although non-agent consultants may be relied on at the regional and state level, the hundreds of forensic accountants employed by the FBI typically handle sensitive matters. Accounting currently qualifies as one of five principal FBI Special Agent Entry Programs. Other major government employers include the IRS and the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.

  • Prevention and Risk Management

Corporate entities and government agencies are increasingly turning to forensic accounting experts for assistance with preventive measures designed to keep fraud and the associated expense of the investigation (and litigation) process to a minimum. Forensic accountants may be asked to conduct thorough internal audits, through which potential pitfalls are uncovered. After identifying problem areas, forensic accountants can help corporate and nonprofit clients take the necessary next steps to minimize the potential for fraud. Forensic accountants can also monitor for compliance with emerging regulations in the corporate environment.

Forensic accounting is an exciting and rewarding field that allows professionals to use their accounting knowledge and investigative skills to catch criminals, settle lawsuits, and reduce the risk of large-scale fraud. Success in forensic accounting often requires a wealth of knowledge beyond that deemed necessary for traditional, entry-level accounting roles. A master’s degree in accounting is an essential start for anyone interested in this field.

Forensic accounting represents the only realistic approach to gaining a deeper understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes in a financial capacity. As such, it is an invaluable specialism for any business with an interest in minimizing losses and maximizing revenues.

The primary importance of quality forensic accountancy includes:

  • Minimized Losses

The primary benefit of solid forensic accounting is how it can help minimize and prevent unnecessary loss. Fraudulent activity and general financial discrepancies cost the business community extraordinary sums of money every hour of every day. The forensic accountant ensures this is not allowed to happen.

  •  Improved Efficiency

Forensic accountants play a crucial role in examining and investigating current financial processes and standards, which can help identify more effective and efficient solutions. The whole process is one of detecting problems and areas of improvement for the benefit of the business.

  • Reduced Exploitation Risk

By proactively patching any obvious ‘gaps’ in current financial, operational standards, the forensic accountant can ensure that the risk of future exploitation is significantly reduced. It’s a case of protecting the business’s best interests before fraudulent activity can take place.

  • Avoidance of Legal Problems

Dealing with instances of fraud (internal or external) can be spectacularly disruptive and costly for the business. In an ideal situation, forensic accountancy can be used to avoid such scenarios from ever occurring by both preventing fraudulent activity and nipping any problems detected in the bud.

  • Improved Brand Reputation and Authority

A brand that leaves itself wide open to manipulation and fraud is a brand that is very difficult to respect, trust and work with. Fraud can do the kind of reputational damage that is borderline impossible to repair – hence the importance of thorough and ongoing forensic International fraud and economic crime surveys consistently report that fraud is a serious problem affecting organizations, without regard to geographical location, size, or industry (ACFE,2014; E&Y,2014; PwC,2014; KPMG,2013). A constant finding is the most common way of discovering a fraud is through a tip, regardless of the source (e.g. employee, vendor, customer, or anonymous). Further, the surveys report that external auditors rarely discover a fraud because many times it may not be causing financial statements to be materially misstated. Owing to the significant amount of employee and management fraud, embezzlement and other financial crimes occurring in today’s society, accounting and auditing professionals must have appropriate forensic accounting training and skills to recognize those crimes (Houck et al., 2006).

2.4 Scope of Forensic Accounting

  • Forensic Accounting in Culture

Koh et al., (2009) conducted a study to examine the acceptance level of the public in Malaysia regarding forensic accounting.  The study revealed that problems arise because FA service is still new to most businesses and Malaysia’s public. This leads to confusion among the people, and some may even be unaware of the system’s existence. Therefore, the importance of the service is disregarded (goes unnoticed). Two variables affect the acceptance levels of the public for the practice of forensic accounting as the primary tool in investigating a company’s account to detect fraud.  The variables include the public’s understanding level of forensic accounting functions and the perception regarding the implementation of forensic accounting in the investigation. The understanding level of the public and the functioning of forensic accounting will determine whether the people in Malaysia will accept it as the primary tool in investigating a company’s account in case of fraud.

The public’s perception of the implementation of forensic accounting in the investigation of a company’s financial statement also determines the acceptance level of forensic accounting in the country. This study shows the importance of two essential components that should be available to create a ground for forensic accounting implementation; these elements are awareness and knowledge of forensic accounting as an anti-fraud tool and the perception of implementing forensic accounting, whereby these two elements are considered as significant factors for the level of acceptance of such tool. In other words, if a change is made in cultures of financially corrupted and opaque business practices, it will result in changes in the people’s traditions, norms, and values,   hence their behaviors; at the end, it will create an awareness and knowledge about fraud and how to fight it and the tools that could be used to inhibit it. In addition, this process similarly applies to forensic accounting.

  • Forensic Accounting in Education

Although there is a growing demand for fraud and forensic accounting globally, much of its advancement and adoption in the accounting curriculum in the universities are taking place in the developed economies. The adoption of forensic accounting into the universities accounting curriculum has a huge potential to enhance students’ skills and competencies. It could be used as a veritable resource to mitigate fraud. Many cases reveal that those who commit fraud are not necessarily geniuses or creative minds. They are typical accountants who copyfraud schemes from the past.  Therefore, the importance of the programs for fraud prevention/detection education and training is emphasized. The question is raised about whether the business school at universities offers enough programs to educate accounting and auditing professionals for fraud prevention/detection. Forensic Accounting is restricted to university programs; there is also a specialized certificate concerned with forensic accounting, which is the Diploma in Investigative & Forensic Accounting (DIFA) program. DIFA is designed to provide a broad range of knowledge and skills to conduct financial investigations. This range includes accounting, audit, income tax knowledge, fraud knowledge, law and rules of evidence, an investigative mentality and critical skepticism, understanding of psychology and motivation, and strong communication skills.

The DIFA program focuses on knowledge and skills that can be best taught and examined in person: handling a face-to-face meeting with a client, interviewing skills, and testifying in court as an expert witness. In conclusion, the base of forensic accounting is a knowledge in accounting, auditing, internal controls, risk assessment and fraud detection, a basic understanding of the legal environment since the legal environment is essential to support the litigation, acknowledging their competence, obtaining a diploma specialized in forensic accounting which could be given by educational institutions that grant certifications such as DIFA. These formal certificates can deepen the students’ knowledge and sharpen their skills in forensic accounting.

  • Forensic Accounting in Management:

Poor corporate governance will lead a certain individual or a group of people with the same interest to act upon it to commit fraudulent activities in the company. This can be reinforced by the fact that top-level management should follow the firm’s policies, which will help the company perform better. Even if a company applies good internal control systems, the management will still be the major factor influencing the implementation. Companies should look towards new approaches rather than the traditional approach, as forensic accounting may be the best alternative for resolving problems. Loebbecke and Willingham (1998) in Oyedokun (2019a) conclude that the probability of material financial misstatements due to fraud is a function of three factors. The factors include the degree to which those in authority in an entity have reason to commit management fraud, the degree to which conditions allow managerial fraud to be committed, and the extent to which those in authority have complied with ethical values that would facilitate fraud commitment.

These three factors show that the management could simply commit fraudulent activities since the public, including shareholders, is unaware of the countermeasure to prevent financial crimes. It argues that there should be a set of guidelines created for the public and management to ensure that actions should be taken when fraudulent economic activities occur. The main problem or issue is the constant misunderstanding of the role and responsibility of the auditor as the public expects auditors to detect financial asset misstatement or even fraudulent activities from the financial statements. This has been the long perception of what an auditor’s responsibilities are. Therefore, this perception should be regenerated and corrected. Auditors with a forensic accounting background would be allotted as forensic accountants specifically to investigate the company’s financial statement. These people would be responsible for detecting financial misstatements. With the proper education given to the public, this perception of auditors could be enhanced.

  • Forensic Accounting in Government and Legislation:

Forensic accounting has played a significant role in improving detection, investigation, and representation of all cases at hand in law courts in judicial formalities. Suppose companies wish to utilize information regarding fraudulent activity in a court law. In that case, they may acquire the skills of a forensic accountant because they can handle investigations in a completely acceptable way in a court of law. Forensic accounting is the specialty practice area of accountancy that describes engagements resulting from actual or anticipated disputes or litigation. “Forensic” means “suitable for use in a court of law,” and it is to that standard and potential outcome that forensic accountants generally have to work. Forensic accountants often have to give expert evidence at the eventual trial. Forensic accounting should be part of criminal investigation for the matters relating to financial implications where the report of forensic accountants must be considered evidence and proof to be presented in court trials. Countries that establish forensic accounting in their legal system have forensic accountants who work with law enforcement and the district attorney’s office.

Like other types of evidence, the prosecution obtains search warrants to locate financial information and compel knowledgeable people to conduct or hold interviews about the situation in question. Forensic accountants can also provide litigation support. Attorneys engage the services of forensic accountants to review existing documentation and testimony and explain their economic significance. A forensic accountant can tell the attorney about the additional information needed to prove the case and ask the witnesses. The forensic accountant may also review damaged reports and state whether the message was accurate and supports the case. Government agencies like the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms have forensic accountants to investigate everything from money laundering and identity theft-related fraud to arson for profit and tax evasion. Law firms often use forensic accountants to help divorcees uncover their hidden assets.

2.5 The Role of Forensic Accounting

The Role of Forensic Accounting in Solving the Vexed Problem of Corporate World according to Owojori and Asaolu (2009) in Oyedokun, Akinwumi, and Asaolu (2018a) are as follows: 

  1. Give preliminary advice as an initial appraisal of the pleading and evidence available at the start of proceedings.
  2. Identifying the key documents that should be made available as evidence is important when the forensic accountant is acting for the defense and lawyers prepare lists of documents to tender in court. 
  3. Preparing a detailed balanced report on the quantum of evidence, written in a language readily understood by a non-accountant and dealing with all issues, irrespective of whether or not they are favorable to the client. 
  4. Reviewing expert accounting reports submitted by the other party may impact the quantum of evidence and advising lawyers on these reports. 

It is observed by Adegbite and Fakile (2012) that:

  1. Forensic Accounting will provide litigation support services with appropriate professional services in the law courts.
  2. Forensic Accounting will institute good corporate governance in the public sector, instilling public confidence in the government and the entire system.
  3. Traditional auditing has limitations in detecting fraudulent practices that forensic accountants will effectively fill. They have the professional ability back up by law to break into the organization system, examine the books, make discoveries, and present documentary evidence in the law courts.
  4. The image of Nigeria in the international community has discouraged foreign direct investment because of economic and financial crime. This affects the development, employment, and standard of living of the people. Eradication of economic and financial corruption through the adoption of forensic accounting in the system will improve the image of Nigeria. Crime free environment will attract foreign direct investment.

On the other hand, Albrecht and Albrecht (2001) in Oyedokun (2019b) identified the following critical functions of the forensic accounting process:

  1. To carry out the vision and mission of forensic audit to prevent, detect, and investigate fraud and financial abuse issues within an organization/entity.
  2. Identification of causative factors and collection of facts for individual investigations by leading the evaluation of internal control weaknesses that allows unethical business behavior and practices to occur and go undetected.
  3. Lead internal/external resources to address allegations of fraud raised within the system.
  4. Provision of help in developing fraud awareness training and analysing fraud trends and internal control procedures.
  5. Perform comprehensive analysis of investigation results across the enterprise to identify pervasive control issues.
  6. Oversee the investigations, planning, and forensic report writing process for forensic audits, investigations, and presentation of findings through reports and exhibits.
  7. Work closely with financial training function to enhance fraud-auditing skills.
  8. Develop the Fraud prevention, detection, and investigation program and management of the company‘s Fraud Risk Assessment program.
  9. Conduct activities in areas of moderate to high risk.
  10. Conduct complex and extremely sensitive investigations.
  11. Promote education and awareness on fraud risk management throughout the bank.
  12. Testifying in court as an expert witness.

2.6 Prerequisite Skills in Forensic Accounting

The following skills and/or knowledge are necessary to serve as an effective forensic accountant:

  1. Ability to identify frauds with minimal initial information
  2. Ability to interview
  3. Critical mindset
  4. Knowledge of evidence
  5. Ability to communicate
  6. Knowledge of investigative techniques
  7. Investigative skills
  8. Ability to identify the financial issue
  9. Ability to interpret financial information

2.7 History of Forensic Accounting

The earliest known forensic accounting evidence has been traced to an advertisement in a newspaper in Glasgow, Scotland, appearing in 1824. At that time, arbiters’ courts and counsels used forensic accountants to investigate fraudulent activities. However, it was not unit the early 1900s in the United States and England, when articles guided giving expert testimony appeared (Crumbley, 2003). As the forensic accounting profession has grown over time, several publications have been produced to provide guidance. In 1946, Maurice Peloubet, an accountant from New York published the article entitled forensic accounting its place in today’s economy. The book, forensic accountings the accountant as an export witness was written by Francis C. Dykeman, (1982). The American Institute of certified public accountants (AICPA) issued practice aid 7 in 1986, outlining six areas of litigation services, including damage antitrust and accounting.

The constant need for forensic accounting in fighting crimes has resulted from regulatory and criminal passed over time. In the early 1900s, the adoption of federal income tax evasion. As a result, the internal revenue service (IRS) developed many forensic techniques s used to detect tax evaders. One of the first income tax evasion cases uncovered by forensic accountants was the infamous gangster al Capone. During World War II, the federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employed over 500 forensic accountants to employ and monitor financial transactions (Ziegenfuss, 2003). Equally important is the creation of a culture and environment aimed at preventing fraud and a response policy designed to respond to fraud detection as effectively as possible. According to a report released by Nedcor, crime cost South Africa R31 billion rends in 1994/1995. A large part of this amount can be attributed to white-collar crime.

Like any other job, forensic accounting has evolved with time. The industry has been affected by changes in technology, society, and the economy. As one aspect of the world changes so has the job of a Forensic Accountant. Continuous education is only one way in which forensic. Accountants learn how to adjust to new challenges. The profession has been around since the early 1900s and has altered the way fraud is discovered and handled since its inception. In the 1990s, the FBI announced that white-collar crime made up only 5% of all cases they saw. They also noted that white-collar crime was responsible for 95% of the financial losses suffered by victims (Manning, 2005). Forensic Accountants are used to mitigating these losses and recover them if possible.

Forensic accounting has gained recognition in the past few decades by publicity high-profile criminal cases. However, the profession is anything but new, with evidence dating back to its presence in the 16th century. As the field continues to expand, the need for educated professionals is growing too. Forensic accounting is proving to fill that void for those looking for a more exciting path within an accounting career. Forensic accounting is also making its debut in educational venues across the country, sparking the interest of many intrigued students and causing them to ask.

3.0       Concept of Fraud and Fraud Detection

Whether commercial or not-for-profit, fraud in most organisations is not preventable. When entrepreneurs or senior managers recognize that fraud could occur in their organization, their attention will likely shift to fraud detection. Early detection can reduce fraud losses in many instances because organizational scams tend to be ongoing. In this segment, we discuss some ways that fraud might be detected.

3.1 Definitions of Fraud

Wikipedia defined fraud as; intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain or to deprive a victim of a legal right. Investopedia online dictionary states that financial fraud occurs when someone takes money or other assets from you through deception or criminal activity. Williams (2005) incorporates corruption into his description of financial crimes. Other components of fraud cited in Williams’s (2005) description include bribes, cronyism, nepotism, political donation, kickbacks, artificial pricing, and frauds of all kinds. The EFCC Act (2004) attempts to capture the variety of economic and financial crimes found either within or outside the organization. The salient issues in EFCC Act (2004) definition include; violent, criminal, and illicit activities committed with the objective of earning wealth illegally in a manner that violates existing legislation and these include any form of fraud, narcotic drug, trafficking, money laundering, embezzlement, bribery, looting and any form of corrupt malpractices and child labor, illegal oil bunkering and illegal mining, tax evasion, foreign exchange malpractice including counterfeiting, currency, theft of intellectual property and piracy, open market abuse, dumping of toxic waste and prohibited goods, etc

3.2 Types of Fraud

One of the biggest challenges of detecting, investigating and preventing employee fraud is the fact that there are so many types of fraud and theft that require different methods for discovery. Most types of fraud schemes fall into the following categories:

  1. Asset Misappropriation
    1. Check Forgery
    1. Check Kiting
    1. Inventory Theft
    1. Theft of Cash
    1. Theft of Services
    1. Expense Reimbursement Fraud
    1. Expense Account Fraud
    1. Procurement Fraud
    1. Payment Fraud
    1. Workers’ Compensation Fraud
    1. Health Insurance Fraud
    1. Commission Fraud
    1. Personal Use of Company Vehicle
  2. Vendor Fraud
    1. Billing Schemes
    1. Bribery and Kickbacks
    1. Check Tampering
    1. Overbilling
    1. Price Fixing
  3. Accounting Fraud
    1. Embezzlement (larceny)
    1. Accounts Payable Fraud
    1. Fake Supplier
    1. Personal Purchases
    1. Double-Check Fraud
    1. Accounts Receivable Fraud
  4. Payroll Fraud
    1. Ghost Employee Schemes
    1. Advance Fraud
    1. Timesheet Fraud
    1. Paycheck Theft
  5. Data Theft
    1. Trade Secret Theft
    1. Theft of Customer or Contact Lists
    1. Theft of Personally Identifiable Information (PID)
    1. Preventing & Detecting Data Theft
  6. Bribery and Corruption
    1. Bribes
    1. Kickbacks
    1. Product Substitution

3.3 Fraud Detection

Fraud detection is a set of activities undertaken to prevent money or property obtained through pretenses. Fraud detection is applied to many industries such as banking or insurance. In banking, fraud may include forging checks or using stolen credit cards. Other forms of fraud may involve exaggerating losses or causing an accident with the sole intent for the payout. With unlimited and rising ways someone can commit fraud, detection can be difficult. Activities such as reorganization, downsizing, moving to new information systems, or encountering a cybersecurity breach could weaken an organization’s ability to detect fraud. Techniques such as real-time monitoring for fraud are recommended. Organizations should look for fraud in financial transactions, locations, devices used, initiated sessions, and authentication systems.

Fraud detection applies to the banking and financial sectors, insurance, medical, government agencies, and law enforcement, to name a few. Sophisticated data mining tools are used to analyze millions of transactions to detect patterns consistent with fraudulent behavior. Today, fraud detection analytics solutions are closely integrated with business systems, going beyond detection to prevention in real-time. These solutions involve some of the latest technologies, such as big data, advanced analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI).

Fraud detection protects customer and enterprise information, assets, accounts, and transactions through the real-time, near-real-time, or batch analysis of activities by users and other defined entities (such as kiosks). It uses background server-based processes that examine users’ and other specified entities’ access and behavior patterns and typically compares this information to an expected profile. Fraud detection is not intrusive unless the user’s activity is suspect.

3.4 Fraud Detection Techniques

Fraud typically involves multiple repeated methods, making searching for patterns a general focus for fraud detection. For example, data analysts can prevent insurance fraud by making algorithms to detect patterns and anomalies.

Fraud data analytics methodologies can be categorized as either:

  1. Statistical Data Analysis Techniques; or
  2. Artificial Intelligence (AI).
  • Statistical Data Analysis Techniques include:
  • Statistical parameter calculation, such as averages, quantiles, and performance metrics
  • Regression analysis – estimates relationships between independent variables and a dependent variable
  • Probability distributions and models
  • Data matching – used to compare two sets of collected data, remove duplicate records, and identify links between sets
  • Time-series analysis
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) techniques include:
  • Data mining – data mining for fraud detection and prevention classifies and segments data groups in which millions of transactions can be performed to find patterns and detect fraud
  • Neural networks – suspicious patterns are learned and used to detect further repeats
  • Machine Learning – fraud analytics Machine Learning automatically identifies characteristics found in fraud
  • Pattern recognition – detects patterns or clusters of suspicious behavior

3.5 Fraud Detection Using Big Data Analytics

Fraud detection and prevention analytics relies on data mining and Machine Learning and is used in fraud analytics use cases such as payment fraud analytics, financial fraud analytics, and insurance fraud detection analytics. Data mining reveals meaningful patterns, turning raw, big datasets into valuable information. Machine Learning then submits that information to either Supervised or Unsupervised algorithms.

Supervised Machine Learning algorithms, such as logistic regression and time-series analysis, learn from historical data and identify patterns of interest that require further investigation. Unsupervised Machine Learning algorithms, such as cluster analysis and peer group analysis, examine data without any identified fraud and reveal new anomalies and interest patterns. Data analysts and scientists can then act on these anomalies.

3.6 Data Analysis Techniques in Fraud Detection

Fraud that involves cell phones, insurance claims, tax return claims, credit card transactions, government procurement, etc., represents significant problems for governments and businesses, and specialized analysis techniques for discovering fraud using them are required. These methods exist in Knowledge Discovery in Databases (KDD), Data Mining, Machine Learning, and Statistics. They offer applicable and successful solutions in different areas of electronic fraud crimes.

In general, the primary reason to use data analytics techniques is to tackle fraud since many internal control systems have serious weaknesses. For example, the currently prevailing approach employed by many law enforcement agencies to detect companies involved in potential cases of fraud consists in receiving circumstantial evidence or complaints from whistleblowers. As a result, many fraud cases remain undetected and unprosecuted. To effectively test, detect, validate, correct error and monitor control systems against fraudulent activities, businesses entities and organizations rely on specialized data analytics techniques such as data mining, data matching, sounds like function, Regression analysis, Clustering analysis, and Gap.

4.0       Implementation of forensic Accounting on Fraud detection

Uncovering fraudulent activities with forensic accounting techniques has recorded immeasurable success in the fight against crime. Many criminals commit fraud by testing patterns and exploiting loopholes. For instance, a hacker might develop a computer program that randomly tests thousands of 4-digit pins per second to crack the passcode on a credit card. Since fraud is often committed through patterns, fraud detection uses artificial intelligence to look for these patterns and sends an alert when one is detected. Depending on the alert’s severity, it could trigger a block of all activity immediately, or it may send the watch to a human evaluator for more investigation. For example, your bank may send you to text message alerts to approve suspicious banking transactions.

Fraud is not easily proven since fraudsters are at a safe line where authority could not uncover them. Fraudsters are getting more intelligent due to the possible mistakes human can cause. This has made detecting and proving fraud hard for a forensic accountant. There is a need for a deeper understanding of how these defaulters work their fraudulent acts. Without constant involvement of the public and improvement in forensic accounting, fraud cases will be hard to detect and thus lead to greater success in financial fraud, which also translates into the failure to meet the public’s expectations, shareholders, or even other stakeholders.

Forensic accounting is considered one of the factors in fraud prevention. Forensic accountants effectively modify the extent and nature of audit tests when the risk of management fraud is high, forensic accountants propose unique procedures that are not proposed by auditors when the risk of management fraud is high, forensic accountants can make to the effectiveness of an audit plan when the risk of management fraud is high, involving forensic accountants in the risk of management fraud assessment process leads to better results than simply consulting them (Effiong, 2012, Mainoma & Oyedokun, 2020).

Dhar and Sarkar (2010) noted that the objectives of forensic accounting include: assessment of damages caused by an auditors’ negligence, fact-finding to see whether embezzlement has taken place, in what amount, and whether criminal proceedings are to be initiated; a collection of evidence in criminal proceedings; and computation of asset values in a divorce proceeding. This implies that the primary orientation of forensic accounting is descriptive analysis (cause and effect) of phenomenon including the discovery of deception (if any), and its effects introduced into the accounting domain. According to Dhar and Sarkar (2010) in Oyedokun (2020), forensic accountants are trained to look beyond the numbers and deal with the business realities of situations. Analysis, interpretation, summarization, and presenting complex financial business-related issues are prominent features of the profession. They further reported that the activities of forensic accountants involve: investigating and analyzing financial evidence; developing computerized applications to assist in the analysis and presentation of financial evidence; communicating their findings in the form of reports, exhibits, and collections of documents; and assisting in legal proceedings, including testifying in courts, as an expert witness and preparing visual aids to support trial evidence.

In the same vein Dhar and Sarkar (2010) stated that forensic accountants provide assistance of accounting nature in a financial criminal and related economic matters involving existing or pending cases as specified by the Alliance for Excellence in Investigation and Forensic Accounting (Alliance) of Canada: assisting in obtaining documentation necessary to support or refute a claim; review of the relevant documentation to form an initial assessment of the cases and identify areas of loss; assistance with the examination for discovery and the formulation of questions to be asked regarding the financial evidence; attendance at the examination from discovery to review the testimony; assist with understanding the financial issues and to formulate additional questions; reviewing of the opposing expert’s damaging report, and reporting on both the strengths and weaknesses of the position taken; and attendance at trial, to hear the testimony of the opposing expert and provide assistance with cross-examination (Ozkul, 2012). Stanbury and Paley-Menzies (2010) state that forensic accounting is the science of gathering and presenting information in a form that a court of jurisprudence will accept against perpetrators of economic crime (Okunbor & Obaretin, 2010).

4.1 Fraud Detection Cases in Lagos, Nigeria

Cadbury (Nig.) Plc. was involved in an accounting scandal that saw the overstatement of the company’s profit by over N13billion between 2003 and 2006. The Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigated the scandal and reported it. In a similar vein, in 2010, the Nigerian Stock Exchange was accused of conducting the affairs of the exchange in a manner detrimental to the interest of investors. A forensic audit of the business was commissioned, and an interim report was issued. The two reports from the plank of the analysis below uses the acronym “CRIME” Control Activity, Risks, Information, Monitoring, and Environment.

“CRIME”Cadbury (Nig.) Plc.Nigerian Stock Exchange
Cooks/Control ActivityMD, CFO, and Executive Directors in agreement with some other Management staff.The Director-general agrees with some management Staff. Non- Executive directors shared productivity bonuses that they were not entitled to.
Recipe /RisksStock buybacks, Cost deferrals, trade loading, false suppliers’ certificates, asset hiding, and Bank balance inflation. Rights issue.False and questionable claims, expense overstatements, expense reclassifications, award of questionable contracts to companies owned by staff members, duplication of payments, outright theft of assets, or questionable write-off of assets to the advantage of members of staff, false returns to regulatory authorities.
Incentives /InformationProfit management and desire for extra pay for non-executive directors, Leverage and liquidity managementThe desire for personal comfort. Justification for productivity bonuses
MonitoringPassive board, ineffective audit committee, compromised management, and internal auditor, weak internal control system due to collaboration, and negligent external auditor that also lacked skepticism.Board riddled with conflicts of interest, Overbearing Director-General. They compromised non – executive directors. Inferior internal control system. Absence of Audit Committee and internal audit. Ineffective external audit function.
End Result /EnvironmentSack of MD and CFO and both barred from holding positions in quoted companies in Nigeria for life. Internal company reorganization that saw the exit of the previous management of the organization. Posting of losses by the company which saw its share price crash. External auditor indicted and fined court cases.Sack of Director-General and non-executive directors. A new Director-General appointed with new executive directors. Refund of productivity bonuses paid to non-executive directors. Recovery of some assets of the company from the erstwhile top management. Over 35% of staff sacked by the new management. Stock Exchange market capitalization dropped as a result of loss of confidence by investors. Court cases.

Discussions

The results presented above indicate that all three common types of fraud were present in the two cases. In the case of Cadbury (Nig.) Plc, the financial statements were overstated by over thirteen billion Naira. In the case of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, although the extent of the overstatement/ understatement cannot be readily ascertained, the duplication of payments, reclassification of expenses, questionable write-offs, and overstatement of expenses ensured that the financial statements of the exchange were less than accurate. Cadbury management had an offshore account completely omitted from the company’s books that were used to top up the salaries of the executive directors. Approval of the board’s remuneration committee was not obtained to make such payments to the directors. This was a clear case of asset misappropriation and conflict of interest. In the case of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, the top management of the bourse had a field day converting the assets of the organization into their personal properties through questionable write-offs.

Also, conflicts of interest were rife in the organization as contracts were awarded to companies fronted by top management staff. Interestingly, misappropriation of an organization’s assets is usually ascribed to employees in the lower rung of the ladder. Still, here it is a case of top management being deeply involved in the infractions. In the case of the Nigerian Stock Exchange case, even non-executive directors were engaged in conflicts of interest and misappropriation of the organisation’s assets by way of productivity bonuses which they were not entitled to. The cooks were top management of both organizations. In the case of Cadbury (Nig.) Plc, the MD, and the CFO led the pack and helped some other top management and middle management staff. In the case of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, The Director-General and some non-executive directors powered the fraud. While the fraud at Cadbury (Nig.) Plc was led by a male, the Nigerian Stock Exchange fraud was led by a female, raising the issue of gender in fraud schemes again. There were marked differences in the recipes. While Cadbury (Nig.) Plc relied on stock buybacks, cost deferrals, and allied techniques, the Nigerian Stock Exchange relied on booking questionable expenses, questionable asset write-offs, and misclassification of transactions. This can be explained by the fact that Cadbury (Nig.) Plc is a profit-making organization, unlike the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

The differences in recipes as a result of the objectives of the organizations also play out in the area of incentives. While Cadbury management is buoyed by the pressure to grow profit and show a favorable balance sheet as well make hay for itself the management of the Nigerian Stock Exchange is largely driven only by the desire to make hay for itself. In the area of monitoring, the non-executive members of the board of Cadbury were passive. The audit committee was ineffective while the internal auditor was compromised. Collusion among some members of top management ensured internal control override. In the case of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, conflict of interest did not allow the non-executive directors to exercise their oversight function effectively. As top management was behind the cases of asset misappropriations and reclassification of accounts, the internal control system could not work. Curiously the exchange had no internal audit unit. It did not also have an audit committee, although it was not mandatory for it to have one under the current Nigerian Law. For both firms, the external auditors did not raise a whimper. In the case of Cadbury (Nig.) Plc the auditors were indicted by SEC for negligence and lack of professional skepticism, while the fees paid to the auditor in the case of the Nigerian Stock Exchange were described as excessive. In both cases, public members, employees of the organization, and the investing public were at the receiving end. Costly litigation has also resulted for both organizations. Perhaps for the first time in Nigeria, an audit firm had been indicted, warned, and fined.

Interestingly, both organizations have been audited for many years by the same firm. The uninspiring performance of some Nigerian auditors has led to the Central bank of Nigeria imposing a selective ban on bank auditors providing non-audit services to its bank audit clients. It has also led to calls for mandatory rotation of auditors in all Nigerian public limited companies. Many watchers of the corporate governance firmament in Nigeria, appalled by the developments in the two premier organizations have vented their feelings.

On Cadbury (Nig.) Plc scandal one said ”What kind of organizational structure was in place in Cadbury (Nig.) Plc that would allow two persons to mindlessly, as reported, affect the health of the company?” Another queried the relevance of a board that still pleads excuses for its negligence for presiding over a staggering fraud of about fifteen billion Naira. Yet another counseled that now is the time for a whistle-blower Act to guide responsible whistleblowing in Nigeria (Solanke 2007).

In the case of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, some of the comments were as follows:

  1. A staff that uses the name of her company or relation to grab a contract from the same organizations he is serving amounts to blatant abuse of office. This is unethical, criminal, and the individuals concerned should defend themselves.
  2. The Nigerian Stock Exchange should be demutualized.
  3. The Nigerian Security and Exchange Commission was slow in acting. (Adigun et al. 2010).

4.2 Electoral Fraud Case in Nigeria

An electoral fraud case was instituted shortly after the 2007 general election was contested in courts for forty two months, it was adjudged the longest electoral battle ever record in Nigeria as it has it days in four different courts. The election was conducted by the Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC) on April 14 which saw the country’s two biggest political parties namely; the Action Congress of Nigeria and Peoples Democratic Party that field Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola respectively for the Osun State Governorship Election. The court in succession resolved all the five issues for determination in favour of Aregbesola and against Oyinlola.

The electoral disputes was centred on the following infractions:

  1. Non-compliance with the electoral Act;
  2. Non-collation of result;
  3. Diversion of sensitive materials;
  4. No-record of election result at the polling units; and
  5. Non-announcement of the result.

The court said that all allegations were well proven as Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola utilized forensic techniques in proving his case up to the Court of Appeal and thereby reclaimed his mandate as the Governor of the State. He called 100 witnesses and tendered 168 exhibits in his quest. Aregbesola prayed the court to nullify election results in 10 local governments and declared him winner of the poll having scored lawful majority votes in the remaining 20 local governments which constitute two-third required by law. The Appeal Court annulled the election held in 10 local governments in dispute saying that the allegations against the election in the 10 disputed local government areas were valid and genuine.

The Appeal Court sitting in Ibadan, Oyo State declared Rauf Aregbesola of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) winner of the 2007 governorship election in the state, awarding him 198,799 votes, against the ousted Prince Oyinlola’s 172,880. Delivering judgment, the chairman of the five-member Appeal panel, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi declared Aregbesola the winner and ordered that he should be sworn in immediately. It was a unanimous judgement.

In the judgment, read for about five hours by Justice Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, the court affirmed that:

  1. INEC did not conduct the election in accordance to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and
  2. INEC did not conduct election in accordance with the Electoral Act.  

And made the following pronouncement:

  1. Declared Aregbesola the winner of the election in line with Section 197 of the Constitution and 147 of the Electoral Act;
  2. Ordered that the election in 10 local government is null and void;
  3. Declares that the declaration of Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as governor of Osun State is null and void;
  4. Held that the first Appellant, Rauf Aregbesola had satisfied Section 179 of the Nigeria Constitution and Section 147(2) of the Electoral Act be declared as the valid governor of Osun State; and
  5. Order for the cancellation of the Certificate of Return earlier issued to Oyinlola and ordered that INEC should immediately issue a Certificate of Return to Aregbesola.

The Appeal chairman and other members of the panel which were M. I. Garba, Paul A. Galinje, C. C. Nweze and Adamu Jauro ruled there was a miscarriage of justice at the lower court. The Appeal court justices said the court was not pleased with the dismissal of the quantum of materials tendered as evidence by the petitioner. Rauf Aregbesola challenged Olagunsoye Oyinlola’s election victory began in 2007 when he filed a 1004-page petition contending that INEC and the police colluded with the PDP to rig the election in favour of Oyinlola. INEC did not call any witness buy verdict was given on November 26, 2010 and Aregbesola was sworn-in the following day as the duly elected governor in an election conducted three and half years earlier.

5.0       Conclusion and Recommendations

Fraud detection methodology which is the data Mining for fraud is the techniques used to perform data mining for fraud range from simple statistical averages to complex neural networks and cluster analyses. This methodology presents some of the more common techniques found in the literature which are Digital Analysis, Outlier Detection which is the primary method of detecting fraud in discovering data values that are outside the normal course of business. Trending, Ratio Analysis, and Computer Forensics. Today, almost every financial fraud incorporates the use of a computer, whether the fraud is falsifying invoices or electronic money laundering (Smith, 2005). In the case of financial statement fraud, entries probably exist as electronic journal entries, login records found in log files, and electronic correspondence between involved individuals. In recent years, auditors find themselves increasingly involved in evidence collection through computer forensics. As it pertains to fraud detection, computer forensics is the process of imaging data for safekeeping and then searching cloned copies for evidence (Gavish, 2007; Dixon, 2005).

Forensic accounting is a discipline that has its models and methodologies of investigative procedures that search for assurance, attestation, and advisory perspectives to produce legal evidence. It is concerned with the evidentiary nature of accounting data, and as a practical field concerned with accounting fraud and forensic auditing; compliance, due diligence and risk assessment; detection of financial misrepresentation and financial statement fraud; tax evasion; bankruptcy and valuation studies; violation of accounting regulation (Dhar and Sarkar, 2010; Moloi and Oyedokun, 2021). Going by the definition of the America Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) which defines forensic accounting as services that involve the application of specialized knowledge and investigative skills possessed by Certified Public Accountants. Forensic accounting services utilize the practitioner’s specialized accounting, auditing, economic, tax, and other skills (AICPA 2010). Singleton and Singleton (2010) in Haruna, Oyedokun, and Mainoma (2020), said forensic accounting is the comprehensive view of fraud investigation. It includes preventing frauds and analyzing antifraud control, which includes gathering nonfinancial information.

Forensic Accounting will institute good corporate governance in all sectors which will install public confidence in the government and the entire system. Traditional auditing has limitations in detecting fraudulent practices that forensic accountants will effectively fill. They have the professional ability back up by law to break into the organization system, examine the books, make discoveries, and present documentary evidence. This affects the development, employment, and standard of living of the people. The study, therefore, recommended thus;

  1. Eradication of economic and financial crime through the adoption of forensic accounting in the system will improve the image of business entities;
  2. Detection and prevention of corruption have given rise to forensic accounting. Due to this fact, the most important thing businesses have to do concerning fraud is to prevent the crime from being committed; and
  3. Government and regulatory authorities should ensure standards and guidelines to regulate forensic activities. Above all, business owners should embrace integrity, objectivity, fairness, and accountability in their day-to-day activities.

References

Alao, B. B. & Odum, A. N. (2019). Fighting fraud in Nigeria banking industry. An examination of the impact of forensic auditing. International Journal of Academic Multidisciplinary Research (IJAMR), 3(12), 22-32, ISSN: 2643-9670.

Dhar, P. & Sarkar, A. (2010). Forensic accounting: An accountant’s vision. Vidyasagar

Efiong, E. J. (2012). Forensic accounting education: An exploration of level of awareness in developing economies – Nigeria as a case study. International Journal of Business and Management, 7(4).

Haruna, R. A., Oyedokun, G. E. and Mainoma, A. M. (2020).Forensic accounting techniques, accounting numbers, and fraud prevention in the listed insurance companies in Nigeria. Journal of Forensic Accounting and Fraud Investigation, 5(2), 1-39, a publication of Association of forensic Accounting Researchers, available at www.afars.org

Mainoma, M.A. & Oyedokun, G.E. (2020). Guidance on Due-Diligent War in Nigeria: A Forensic Accounting Approach to Fight against Corruption. Lagos. Nigeria. Association of Forensic Accounting Researcher (AFAR). ISBN: 9789789787326

Moloi, T. & Oyedokun, G. (2021). Enterprise Risk Management and Fraud Examination Processes. OGE Business School Publisher: Lagos Nigeria ISBN: 978-978-986-393-8

Ojukwu, S. E., Ubi, J. J., Olugbemi, K. O., Olugbemi, M. D. & Emefiele, C. C. (2020). Forensic accounting and fraud detection in Nigerian universities (A study of Cross River University of Technology). Journal of Accounting and Financial Management, 6(4), E-ISSN 2504-8856 P-ISSN 2695-2211.

Okunbor, J.A. & Obaretin, O. (2010). Effectiveness of the application of forensic accounting services in Nigerian organisations. Journal of Management Sciences, 1(1), 171-184.

Onodi, B. E., Okafor, T. G. & Onyali, C. I. (2015). The impact of forensic investigative methods on corporate fraud deterrence in banks in Nigeria. European Journal of Accounting, Auditing and Finance, 3(4), 69 – 85.

Oyedokun, G. E. (2014). Approach to forensic accounting and forensic audit. SSRN Electronic Journal. Accessed at DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.2575168

Oyedokun, G.E. (2017). Compendium of writings in forensic accounting & Fraud examination. Lagos, Nigeria. ASCO Publishers. ISBN: 978-978-55513-7-2

Oyedokun, G.E. (2018a). Ethical justification for creative accounting: Fraud & forensic Accountants’ perspectives. Lagos, Nigeria. Aaron & Hur Publishing. ISBN:978-978-56462-9-2

Oyedokun, G.E. (2018b). Fundamentals of forensic accounting & fraud Investigation. Lagos, Nigeria. Aaron & Hur Publishing. ISBN: 978-978-56462-6-9

Oyedokun, G.E. (2019a). Imperatives of tax audit & investigation. Lagos, Nigeria. Aaron & Hur Publishing. ISBN:978-978-56481-2-6

Oyedokun, G.E. (2019b). Approaches to entrepreneurship development. Lagos, Nigeria. Aaron & Hur Publishing. ISBN:978-978-56481-0-2

Oyedokun, G.E. (2020). Advanced Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination. Lagos. Nigeria. Association of Forensic Accounting Researcher (AFAR). ISBN: 978-978-981-677-4

Oyedokun, G.E., Akinwumi, O, S. & Asaolu, T. O. (2018a). Forensic accounting skills and corruption eradication in Nigeria. Journal of African Interdisciplinary Studies (JAIS). 2(3). A Publication of the Centre for Democracy, Research and Development (CEDRED), Nairobi. Kenya.

Ozkul, K. L. (2012). Forensic accounting and litigation. Uyo: Abam Publishing.

Pamukc¸A. & Ozkul, F.U., (2012). Fraud detection and Forensic Accounting, Istanbul, Turkey.

Singleton, J. B. (2010). Planning fraud detection procedures. New York: McGraw Hill.

Stanbury, C. T. (2010). Financial institutions and markets. Owerri: Corporate Impression.

University Journal of Commerce, 15(3), 93-104.

Yakubu, B. Z. & Oyedokun, G.E. (2021). Enhancing Public Confidence in Audit Report of Listed Companies in Nigeria through Forensic Audit. Journal of Forensic Accounting and Fraud Investigation, 6(1), 83-103, a publication of Association of forensic Accounting Researchers, available at www.afars.org.

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Prof. Oyedokun is currently a faculty member for the supervision of Postgraduate Students at the University of South Africa (UNISA). He is also an External Examiner for the undergraduate programme of the Accountancy Departments of both Abia State University, Uturu Nigeria and Atiba University, Oyo, Nigeria.

Prof. Oyedokun is a sought-after intellectual, who had presented over 787 technical/seminar papers in various conferences/training/seminars and is an examiner to some professional bodies, both in Nigeria and abroad. Prof. Oyedokun has attended several local and international conferences in the last 20 years with over 40 professional articles and 120 peered-reviewed academic articles (of which 30 are in International Journals), and 20 conference papers, 10 chapters contributions, he has edited 7 books and published 23 books, all but to the Glory of God. He has successfully supervised as a sole supervisor, 115 BSc Projects, 6 PGD Projects, 32 MSc Dissertations, and 21 completed Ph.D. Theses in management, accounting, finance, taxation, and forensic accounting & audit in Nigeria and overseas.

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