The Nigerian government has stressed the need for the legislature, especially the Senate, to always exercise caution when enacting new laws, so as to avoid duplication capable of bastardizing professionalism in the country.
Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun issued the warning on Wednesday while presenting a memorandum on two Bills seeking to establish the chartered institute of forensic and investigative auditors in Nigeria, and Chartered institute of forensic accountants of Nigeria.
The minister, who was represented by the Director of Home Finance in the ministry, Mrs. Olubunmi Siyanbola, also highlighted recent functional initiatives by the present government that helps to detect and prevent fraud, including the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit, Efficiency Unit and Whistle blowing programme.
She, however, emphasized the need for Senate to “exercise caution such that the essence of professionalism is not destroyed in the course of creating new bodies”
The event was a one day public hearing organized by the Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service on four Bills.
The Bills are: Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Auditors in Nigeria, Chartered Institute of Finance and Control in Nigeria, Chartered Institute of Forensic Accountants of Nigeria, and the Institute of Mediators and Conciliators Bill.
Regulation for Auditors
Meanwhile, Professional accountants from different bodies hold divergent views on the proposed Bill for Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Auditors in Nigeria; and the Bill for Chartered Institute of Forensic Accountants of Nigeria, making them somewhat controversial as the public hearing progressed.
Presenting their memoranda at the session, representatives of the Institute of Forensic Accountants of Nigeria, Professor Usman Ali Awheela and the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Auditors in Nigeria (CIFIA), Dr. (Mrs.) Victoria Ayishetu Enape commended the senate for the proposed Bills, saying their members have not been allowed to practice forensic accounting since there was no enabling law.
According to Dr. Enape, if the Bill for Chartered Institute of Forensic Accountants of Nigeria is passed “it will help Nigeria to have skilled professionals to deepen the fraud prevention, detection and preserve money in government treasury for infrastructural development that is fast disappearing in our country today”.
She disabused the minds of stakeholders at the session about the alleged conflict between the functions of the CIFIA and other institutes such as the ICAN, which are established by existing legislations.
“CIFIA should not be seen as a rival to ICAN, just as CIFIA is not seen as a rival to ANAN. Nothing stops an accountant from becoming a member of ICAN and CIFIA or any other professional body for that matter,” she stressed.
Dr. Enape further added that the “auditing which has no professional body regulating it, gave the opportunity for financial accountants to claim autonomy, and as a matter of fact leads to their inability to control and prevent fraud, corruption and other financial crimes”.
She therefore believed that the Bill on CIFIA would serve as a check to the financial statements prepared by accountants and also achieve the agenda of the federal government in combating fraud, corruption and other financial crimes in the country.
In his presentation, the Chief Executive of Institute of Forensic Accountants of Nigeria, Prof. Awheela, said “forensic accounting is the unique blend of education and experience in applying accounting, auditing skills and investigative techniques to uncover truth, form legal opinions in order to assist in litigation support”.
According to him, “forensic accounting professionals provide assistance on cases which are primarily related to calculation and estimation of economic damages and related issues that includes white-collar crimes.”
However, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN kicked against the proposed Bills, saying their functions and responsibilities are already contained in the 1965 Act that established the Institute and would therefore amount to needless duplication of functions.
ICAN President, Ismaila Zakari submitted that the Institute had in 2009 established seven Faculties to provide training for members in their areas of specialization, adding that they also provide specialist certification courses and issue certificates to qualified members as evidence of expertise and authority to practice their specialized skills.
“The Forensic accounting curriculum is carefully drawn to ensure that, to be a forensic accountant, one must necessarily be a qualified chartered accountant, be certain of technical competence and preserved professional integrity. From the foregoing, Forensic accounting is adequately covered within the scope of the training that ICAN provides and therefore, the quest for a separate Institute for just Forensic accounting is totally uncalled for,”Zakari stressed.
Similarly, the Nigerian Law Reform Commission (NLRC), kicked against the new professional bodies, saying before a person starts practicing audit and other accounting related areas; they must first qualify as a Chartered Accountant.
A Commissioner in the commission, Prof. Jummai Audi said prior to qualification as a chartered accountant, the person would have followed a detailed curriculum of Forensic and Investigative Audit.