When informational data is deleted or edited by any computer expert, be it from a folder and or on the server, the information in real sense has not been deleted or edited, the real original information is available and where it was originally placed.
As sophisticated as digital forensic is, no informational data is ever lost, how long it might have been deleted or edited or transferred, that information is available it only takes a forensic professional to do a comprehensive forensic audit health check to bring back the original informational data. Forensic audit is very unique and separates itself from other audits, it goes beyond to accounts reconstruction and data recovery for a meaningful forensic report.
Forensic audit, internal audit and external audit are very different and the output reports by virtue of the scope of their works differs materially. The use of external auditor or internal auditors to do forensic audit work is grossly misrepresentation of findings and defeats usability of the report in the court of law, “forensic science is a service to law” equally internal auditors cannot perform the works of a forensic auditor, internal audit as an independent and objective assurance is designed to add value to organisations activities focusing on internal controls and not fraud investigation or audit.
Malawi has for years been embroiled in a lot of fraud and fraudulent, activities that don’t fall under internal or external auditors work but that of forensic auditor, unfortunately the very few Malawian forensic professionals in those speciality areas are neglected to ably do forensic work.
In recent weeks and months few reports have been issued in the name of being forensic audit report, but going through the report one could see elements of external or internal audit report in it, presenting such findings for prosecution prosecutors beg the court for 40 extra days to do further investigations. A forensic report bond and speaks directly to the crime offender, its evidence is irrefutable, once a forensic report has been issued there is nothing like suspects out on bail pending further investigations, further investigations are done if such is internal or external audit report.
When the President is busy cleaning the rubble, we are busy giving him internal or external audit reports as forensic report. Many financial crimes in courts are based on internal or external audit findings; hence, they are taking unnecessarily longer to be concluded with suspects out on bail forever against too much legal technical hitches facing such cases, if such cases are added of forensic audit evidence surely no more time shall be wasted in prosecuting the vice.
Internal audit looks at efficiency and effectiveness of internal controls, external audit does the expression of an opinion on the fairness or otherwise in all material respect, regarding the financial position and gives an opinion on the financial performance of an entity, forensic audit investigates and evidences fraud, just by checking financial statements as a products of external audit, fraud elements are hidden even if the entity faced fraud during the financial reporting year, that purely shows that external auditors have no voice in fraud reporting.
A layman from Jeka Village in Mwazisi, Rumphi wonders some why companies that were hit by fraud had nothing reported in the financial statement even if the marginal propensity to negative profits was material through unreported fraud, thus where one knows that external auditors are by themselves fraudsters through misrepresentation of untrue financial year entity profitability. There must be a quest to ensure that fraud is reported in the financial statements.
The serious nature of forensic audit is that it is a knowledge science and for real knowledge workers, evidence becomes the basis of forensic knowledge in auditing and investigating white-collar crimes, forensic audits individualise evidence in a bostic like manner.
In forensic audit the focus is much on the identification, interpretation and communication of physical evidence of an underlying particular economic scandal, and is not used to render audit opinion, but a practice that proceed in the manner that can best detect, stop and collect material physical evidence about fraud or unethical activities as a singularly-focused subset, fraud examinations can easily fit within the scope of a traditional audit or a forensic audit, unlike in Malawi globally, forensic auditing is a lifeline for many corporate organisations survival and brings a true reflective picture of the exact financial performance of an entity.
Take for example all these companies that are closing or closed in the past decade, if forensic audit is to be carried out, the reports could be emptying.
Forensic evidence that could be uncovered, shall all lead to massive fraud and corruption within the organisation two to three years before the company was closed “fit the proper person, the Malawi fraud culture” the fight against fraud in Malawi is the same as the fight against corruption, fraudsters are too corrupt.
There is numerous physical evidence in closed companies that connects political will to closing of economic companies, in almost all closed companies cash grew legs and vanished from vault or bank accounts without trace only leaving forensic evidence that can only be established if a comprehensive forensic audit can be undertaken for court proceedings, evidence of which both internal and external audit have tight hands to ably come up with. Corporate stakeholder expects internal and external auditors to be able to detect and prevent errors and fraud in modern auditing although this is purely incidental to their primary roles.
In as far as forensic audit is concerned, fraud is no longer a menace that internal and external auditors can guard against with their periodic audits, auditors are more than accountants but forensic accountants are more than auditors and the forensic auditors combines them all as knowledge workers, there is no sampling in forensic audit as done with internal audit. In the current advanced technology, it must be noted that white collar crimes menace are criminal issues and more dealt with by legal fraternities more than accountants but due to lack of number crunching capacities by the learned friends it makes them difficult to analyse and evidence white collar crimes hence rely on forensic audit and investigations work.
Forensic audit is as a result of a crime done by those who satisfies a facet of guilt in their every respect action, the crime offenders have the ability and capacity with the same motive as others have and have the “same reasons to do the crime”. A part from motive the crime offender have a mean “the ability to do the crime”, and have that opportunity “if can be placed at the crime place and act in the similar manner” A fraud free society is possible “it begins with you”. n
*Wesley Mgenge Chipofya, is a forensic audit fellow, an evidence expert and finalist doctoral of philosophy in forensic audit and investigation.