The new laws passed following last year’s accounting scandals and the anti-money laundering legislation have created a demand for fraud investigation and forensic accounting work.
But forensic accounting departments are struggling to keep up with the workload and are finding it difficult to recruit high-calibre accountants.
BDO Stoy Hayward fraud expert Andrew Durant said the new laws had created more work for his department and a greater need for forensic accountants in the police, as well as in the new Asset Recovery Agency and the Office of Fair Trading.
And Philip Kabraji, national head of forensic services at Grant Thornton, echoed the belief. ‘Various public bodies are looking to recruit forensic accountants because of the Proceeds of Crime Act,’ he said. ‘There will be more work as a consequence of this Act.’
In companies, experts said that the increase in business confidence, the fear of disputes and a renewed awareness of reputational risk had added to the work.
They said that companies were looking at ways to reinforce their control systems and provide an early resolution of conflicts that require forensic accountants.
Adam Bates, head of forensic accounting at KPMG, said his team was often asked to look into black holes in companies and had been involved in investigations into company pension schemes.
But he added that another factor in the shortage was that the forensic accountanting discipline was a relatively new one that requires several years to build up the necessary experience.
‘There are not a huge number of senior forensic experts,’ he said. ‘The quality of people required tends to be very high so that reduces the pool.’
He said that staff turnover in forensics was low. ‘People tend to like the work and stay in their department.’
Kabraji said that at Grant Thornton ‘people are keen to move, but it will take some time to train them to become forensic experts.’
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