Forensic accountants in demand

A new field of accounting is rapidly gaining acceptance in Australia – so much so that a new body has been set up to maintain its standards.

Forensic accounting, long accepted in Europe and the US, is a growing force in Australia.

Siviour Consulting principal Brenton Siviour is WA chairman of the Institute of Chartered Account-ants of Australia’s Forensic Accounting Special Interest Group.

The group supplies training, education and assistance to members wanting to work or already in the area and sets up guidelines.

Forensic accounting relates to expert reporting produced by a practitioner, usually to support litigation. However, it also involves a degree of investigation.

Mr Siviour’s experience in the field includes the end of the heady 1980s. He was part of the team that traced the transactions of the failed Rothwells Bank and Bond Corporation.

He was also involved with the investigation into the Bank of Credit and Commerce Internation-al in London.

Mr Siviour said his role involved investigating where the money went and why.

“In the Bond inquiry, we traced all the cash transactions from Bell Resources through the two intermediaries back to Bond Corp.

“We also traced the accounting transactions done to cover up what had happened.

“We put together a ‘what had happened’ and linked it to the legal documents and witness accounts.”

Mr Siviour was also involved in the investigations into Excel Finance in Adelaide.

“That organisation was effectively providing loans to its directors – not third parties,” he said. “The directors used those loans for related investments.”

Both a boon and threat to forensic accountants is the computer.

“We are able to find some amazing things on computer back-up tapes,” Mr Siviour said. “In one case we found a document that had been backdated by a year. But computers also make it easier to destroy the evidence.”

Mr Siviour said there was a call for forensic accountants.

“Forensic accountants need to have a good understanding of the role of law and of legal systems. They need to be able to understand legal documents.

“They have to be able to put to-gether ‘chronology of events’ documents which can point to where things have been covered up.”

Mr Siviour said there were still some major cases going on.

He is working on the Greyhound Pioneer case where losses of $50 million have been incurred since the company listed in 1992. In this case, Mr Siviour was called in by the company’s board to investigate the losses.

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