The President/Chairman of Chartered Institute of Forensic and Certified Fraud Examiners, Dr. Iliyasu Gashinbaki, in this interview speaks on issues surrounding the recent public hearing on the bill for the establishment of the institute which took place last month. Excerpts:
What is the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Certified Fraud Examiners about?
The Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN) has been around for several years and has succeeded in training over 40,000 professionals but yet it felt that is not enough. ANAN being the founder and sole promoter of this institute sees the need to have a specialised arm for forensic accounting. The challenge with fraud is that career criminals are always ahead of the regulator and even ahead of professionals. That is why we always run behind because they understand the system and know the weaknesses in the system. The Chartered Institute of Forensic and Certified Fraud Examiners will uniquely put on the table something different. It is different from any other law ever passed in this country because there is no law passed to build capacity in the area of forensics and fraud examination. Secondly, ANAN has the Nigerian College of Accountancy and that college has been upgraded into a university. What we intend to do now is to create the Nigerian Forensic Academy and once the bill becomes law, we will have the Academy affiliated to the university to build the capacity of the tertiary institutions. The idea is to upgrade it to a regional university in Africa because what we are doing has never been done in Africa. We are combining two great areas – which is the area of fraud examination and forensics being fused under one canopy. Also, because this body is multi-disciplinary, we will have under it diverse professionals: In forensic architecture, criminology, law, sociology, medicine and so on, to deal with various ramification of fraud and that also gives us the scope and competency to deal with the broad diversity of our economy and growing complexities of fraud.
What is the institute seeking to do differently?
The general public usually thinks that accountants are either fraud examiners or forensic experts. That is not true. As accountants, we are mandated to keep and maintain records in a true and fair manner that is reliable. While the fraud examiner or forensic accountant looks for the minute details of fraud not just accounts, but the diverse ramification of fraud with the aim to ultimately find the evidence that will stand the test of time and nail the suspect.
How are you going to combat fraud in the country?
Both ANAN and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) train accountants. Being an accountant gives one an advantage, but other disciplines like law, economics, sociology, psychology and so on are also incorporated into the fraud examination exercise. Forensic is also diverse. While we are using forensic accounting to dig out evidence that will stand the test of trial, forensic science is also used to get evidence that they use in convicting criminals. So, I will say while being an accountant is an added advantage, forensic is multi-disciplinary and the reason this bill is necessary.
The guarantee of this Chartered Institute to cage fraud and criminality is that this is the global best practice.
In the US, the most recognised accounting body is the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and of course the globally recognised Associates Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). These are two major bodies and the extent of their scope of work is to maintain records of accounts that ensure reliability and accuracy for all the stakeholders. Therefore, accountants, by doing their job, do not necessarily isolate that entity from fraud because criminals are always ahead of regulators or any system put in place. That is why you need the special skill of a forensic expert to unravel the fraud. What I can guarantee is that this body will significantly reduce the quantum of fraud both in the public and private sector.
So, what is the cause of the rivalry between your institute and ICAN?
It is well known that there is rivalry between ICAN and ANAN. But from the ANAN point of view i would not say that it is rivalry. It is rather that ICAN has consistently towed the line of a monopoly since 1965. They never wanted anybody to be in the space of accounting and we can see for ourselves that healthy competition is very import. With ANAN coming into being about 43 years ago, we have seen that more accountants have been trained. The college (Nigerian College of Accountancy) has been established, now we have the ANAN University and also this institute. It is much more of the approach while ICAN is of the monopolistic point of view of things; ANAN in our own view is looking at professionalism from development point of view. When you get to a certain level as an organisation, there is what we called the maturity level. When you get to that level, it is no longer about training of professionals but about the economy, development of the country and what is it that you can contribute to humanity at that point in time. This is because you would have surpassed looking at those few people that are your members, That is why organisations like the Nigerian Bar Association have strong voice because they are in the vanguard of sharpening development; the Nigerian Medical Association and Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE). You will agree with me that the line that they are towing about development and is not about who does what at that point in time becaue they must have passed that level. So, for me, we are open to developmental ideas. Surprisingly, even with seeming opposition that ICAN has taken against this institute, you will discover again that we have a lot of ICAN members in the institute and beyond being our members, we also have ICAN members on our board. So, sometimes, it bothers me when you see ICAN talking from both sides of their mouth. I think this is time we should work together and move the profession up.
Don’t you think this rivalry is impeding economic growth?
Like i said earlier, the view point of ICAN has been monopolistic and it is not about national development. For example, everybody knows today that if the argument that ICAN should be the only body of accountant had stood for example, you wouldn’t have the Nigerian College of accountancy, you wouldn’t have the ANAN University, you wouldn’t even have this institute which are all creations of ANAN. You wouldn’t have a situation today where the majority of senior staff positions in public sector, especially, are ANAN-trained accountants. So, regardless of the fact that they have tried to impede development, I can tell you that Nigerians can see it for themselves that, that path they have towed wouldn’t have taken us anywhere if they had only ICAN. Besides that, we have seen that the development path has yielded result in terms of creating institutions. Over the years, ANAN has trained over 40,000 accountants and much more would come. It is the same thing with the institute, it came into being as a consequence that Nigeria is spending so much money in capital flight paying forensic and fraud examiners from Canada, USA and all over Europe. They are paying them in dollars and pound sterling in millions annually to conduct various assignments just because we don’t have competent-trained professionals in the country that will do that. That is why we floated the institute. The institute did not start today. We have been in existence since 10 years.
How will the Institute build capacity for EFCC, ICPC, Police, among others?
Regulators and even the people in the forefront of the fight against corruption have not been able to understand that we need to build capacity. For instance, if you notice, by legislation, we have the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission…