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According to Peltz & Bart (2009), a recently conducted survey by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners gives a suggestion that the business organizations do have more reason to have much concern over fraud than ever before.
But on the other, the survey also indicated that the causes of the fraud can be understood and this problem can be dealt with effectively. It is pointed out that in the year 2008, the fraud cost 994 USD to the American businesses and this figure represents 7% of the total revenues (Peltz & Bart, 2009).
These researchers further point out that “as disturbing as those aggregates are, they do not fully convey the impact to a business from an incident” (Peltz & Bart, 2009, p.2). A large number of business organizations under no circumstances recover from the damage.
Taking appropriate measures to prevent crime is of great interest to the privately owned business organizations. The businesses that are small and medium in size are mostly susceptible.
Such businesses incur bigger losses on the basis of “per incident” as compared to the business organizations that are large in size. And since there can be wiping out of equity before the unsecured debt as well as lender interests, “equity interests are the most exposed stakeholders” ((Peltz & Bart, 2009, p.2).
The cost of fraud to companies or business organizations is immense. The question that has been raised after the occurrence of fraud has been; why did the auditors not see the problem of fraud well in advance? A sensible answer to this question is that those who engage in committing the fraud were intelligent enough to cover up the fraud.
However, in the actual sense, as Omowumi (2010) points out, “on an increasing level, the blame has been directed towards the auditors which is, most of the time, an indication of “lack of understanding as to what the role of the auditors should be, but has the auditor’s role changed?” (Omowumi, 2010, p.71).
Considering the fact that the cost of fraud to businesses is quite huge, it is therefore vital to come up with strategies that will facilitate fraud detection and prevention.
Putting in to consideration the high public expectations for auditors due to the occurrence of the savings as well as loans scandals, the question that is presented in this paper is what the responsibilities are of the auditors and management.
In this paper, the definition of fraud is going to be given and the cost of fraud to businesses is going to be considered. This will be followed by a review of literature on the responsibilities for fraud detection and prevention in order to find answers to the research question.
In then course of the recent years, the level of fraud has remarkably increased and the professionals hold a belief that there is likelihood that this trend will continue even in the future (Oyinlola, 2010).
Before continuing with the discussion, it is very important to look at the definition of the term ‘Fraud’. There are several definitions for this term.
One of them is given in the Webster’s Dictionary in which fraud is defined as “the international deception to cause a person to give up property or some lawful right” (Fraud, 2012, p.1).
According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, occupational fraud is defined as, “the use of one’s occupation for personal enrichment through the deliberate misuse or misapplication of employing organization’s resources or assets”(ACFE, 2008, p.1).
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One of the researchers cited in this paper, Omowumi (2010) ,gives the definition of fraud as “an act of deliberate deception with the intention of gaining some benefit” (Omowumi, 2010, p.71).
All these definition point to one thing; that fraud involves theft. In this paper, the interest is in that fraud whose detection may be carried out by the auditors and managers.
The Cost of Fraud to Businesses and offenders
It is actually hard to give out the estimate of the cost of fraud to business for the reason that there is no discovering of all frauds committed, there is no reporting of all the frauds exposed, and there is no pursing of civil as well as criminal actions at all times.
Preventing and Detecting fraud (2009) points out that, basing on the study that was conducted in 2008, it was indicated that 7 percent of the total revenues in organizations would be lost as a consequence of committing fraud.
Omowumi (2010) points out that the available data indicate that the overall cost of fraud is more than two times “the amount of missing money or assets” (Omowumi, 2010, p. 73).
While technology advances and computerized systems turn out to be more complex, the expected cost of fraud likewise become complex.
It is interesting to find out that it is that employee in a company who is the most trusted and valued that generally engage in the committing of the business fraud. In a large number of cases, those who engage in the committing of fraud do not consider stealing from their company as being a harmful practice.
They may hold it that the crime they commit is one that has no victims and they do not look at the theft they engage in as being costly to the company.
A large number of frauds come about for the reason that there is an opportunity and the people who commit the crime has an idea that he or she will not be caught.
In a large number of instances, the one committing fraud does not have or has very little ‘criminal self concept’ and consider violations as being part of his or her work.
The offenders normally try as much as possible to minimize their crime because the crime brings about minor losses for a big volume of customers. There is no targeting of one particular customer for the crime (Omowumi, 2010).
The Responsibilities for Fraud Detection and prevention
According to Omowumi (2010), the auditor has the responsibility “to plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement, whether caused by error or fraud” (Omowumi, 2010, p.73).
Because of the audit evidence nature and fraud characteristic, the auditor is in a position to get reasonable, but not complete, guarantee that there is detection of material misstatements (Omowumi, 2010; Akinwolemiwa, 2009).
For a long time, detection of fraud has been regarded as being a major reason for auditing. But there has been no clear definition of the auditor’s role from the beginning.
A review of the historical development of the responsibility of the auditors in fraud detection and reporting over years was carried out by Porter (1997). This researcher’s study gives an indication that there is an assessment of auditing practices and change in auditing concept through several stages.
According to Stirbu, Moraru, Farcane, Blidisel & Popa (2009), Porter study gives a revelation that the basic goal of “an audit in the pre-1920’s phase was to uncover fraud” (Stirbu, Moraru, Farcane, Blidisel & Popa, 2009, p.56).
However, it is pointed out that by the 1930’s, the basic goal of an audit had shifted to accounts verification (Stirbu, et al, 2009). This change is highly likely to have been brought about by the increase in the volume as well as the size of the transactions of business organizations which consequently caused it to be not likely that the auditors could carry out the evaluation of all transactions.
In the course of this period, the profession of auditing started to present claims that the fraud detection responsibilities lay in the hands of the management.
Moreover, management is supposed to as well have carried out the implementation of suitable internal control systems in order to ensure prevention of fraud in their organizations (Stirbu, et al, 2009).
In the course of the 1960s, there was general discontent among the public and the media that the auditors were not willing to accept the responsibilities of fraud detection.
The audit helpfulness was constantly called in to question as, in general terms, did not succeed in exposing fraud (Stirbu, et al, 2009). However, in spite of the prevailing criticism, the auditors went on minimizing the significance of the role they played in fraud detection by making an emphasis that the responsibility was in the hands of the management (Stirbu, et al, 2009).
In the course of the 1980s, with advancement in technology, the complexity and volume of incidents of fraud have posed severe problems for businesses”( Stirbu, et al, 2009, p.57).
Although determination has been carried out of the case law that in particular situations auditors have the responsibility of fraud detection, attempts have been made by the courts to ensure maintaining of the responsibilities of the auditors within logical limits. (Stirbu, et al, 2009).
On the contrary, an argument is presented by Boynton, Johnson & Kell (2005) that, beginning from the time of the fall of Enron, there has been refurbishing of the auditing standards to re-emphasize the duties of auditors in fraud detection. The assertion these researchers make is based on ISA 315 and ISA 240.
ISA 315 calls for the auditors to carry out the evaluation of the efficiency of “an entity’s risk management framework in preventing misstatements, whether through fraud or otherwise, in the course of audit” (Stirbu, et al, 2009, p.57).
According to Boynton et al (2005), formerly, this requirement did not exist. These researchers go ahead to present an explanation that such an evaluation was needed previously just at a time they made a choice to rely on that framework and to ensure reduction of the audit investigation extent (Boynton et al).
Moreover, the members of staff involved in an audit are required to engage in communicating their findings among themselves in order to avoid situations in which the staff members, operating in an independent manner on their individual sections of the audit, have not been able to appreciate the importance of evidently small irregularities which, if brought together, assume a more threatening sense.
In addition, Boynton et al (2005) present a claim that auditors are supposed to be more practical in their search for fraud in the course of carrying out an audit basing on ISA 240.
The auditors’ responsibilities now encompass having consideration of opportunities and motivations offered to prospective fraudsters, and also rationalizations that a fraud activity is warranted.
There are as well expectations about the auditors to engage in making inquiries more intimately into motivating factors that contribute to issues such as; occurrence of mistakes in accounting estimates, “unusual transactions that appear to lack business rationale, and reluctance to correct immaterial errors discovered by the audit” (Stirbu, et al, 2009, p.57).
According to Omowumi (2010), even if the public have constant expectations of auditors to expose fraud, they do not have specific duty of detecting fraud since heavy dependence is put on the management to offer documentation and information; the frauds which are small are hard for the auditors to detect, especially if they are being committed by more than a single key staff member within the company.
It is pointed out that there is maintaining of the ‘International ‘ standard that the mandate of the auditor may call for him to take cognizance and engage in reporting issues which come to his attention in carrying out his tasks, which relate to “compliance with legislative or regulatory requirement, adequacy of accounting and control system, viability of economic activities, programs and projects” (Omowumi, 2010, p.73).
Of late, a view has come up in which it is emphasized that the auditors are supposed to play a more significant and direct role in setting up good governance, in case this implies having expectation of them to cross the set up boundaries of legitimate audit functions, “it would be stretching the string too far, without gaining anything positive and substantial” (Omowumi, 2010, p.73).
The only available option then is to make the auditors to have a feeling of being more careful and dutiful and thus, becoming more effective, at the same time confining themselves to “their term of reference” (Omowumi, 2010, p.73).
The level of fraud in the business organizations has been ever increasing and a belief is held among the professionals that this level is likely going to go on increasing.
The cost of fraud to the business organizations as well as to the public can only be approximated, since a large number of fraud cases go unreported.
However, the current statistics give an indication of the enormous values that are linked to fraud. In addition, with advancement in technology which involves use of computers in organizations may make these organizations to be more prone to fraud.
In order to deal with the problem of fraud, there must be exertion of a joint effort by the management of the business organizations, the auditors as well as the employees in these organizations.
Each and every person has to come to a realization that fraud is not a crime that has no victims. The cost that arises following committing of fraud is shared by all people through higher costs as well as through reduced business profits.
By putting sufficient internal controls in place by the management, as well as favourable working conditions for the workers, stricter requirement for the auditors and also putting in place codes of ethics for the workers in the organization, every person can begin to fight frauds in the business organization.
Akinwolemiwa, C. G (2009). The auditors’ responsibility to consider fraud in an audit of financial statement. The Nigerian accountant-Institute of chartered Accountant of Nigeria journal, 2(1), 57-64.
Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (2008). 2008 Report to the Nation: Occupational Fraud and Abuse. Austin, TX: ACFE.
Boynton, W., Johnson, R. & Kell, W. (2005). Assurance and the integrity of financial reporting. New York, NY: John Wiley & Son, Inc. Fraud, (2012). Web.
Omowumi, A. O. (2010). The changing responsibilities of auditors in detection and prevention of business frauds within a challenging environment in Nigeria. Journal of Emerging Trends in Economics and Management Sciences, 1(2), 71 – 75.
Oyinlola, A. O. (2010). The role of auditors in fraud detection, prevention and reporting in Nigeria. Library Philosophy and Practice, 1 (1), 517.
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Stirbu, D., Moraru, M., Farcane, N. Blidisel, R. & Popa, A. (2009). Fraud and error auditors’ responsibility levels. Annales Universitatis Apulensis Series Oeconomica, 11(1), 2009.