THE ROLE OF ACCOUNTANT IN A CORPORATE FINANCIAL ORGANISATION
CASE STUDY OF FIRST BANK OF NIGERIA (OWERRI BRANCH)
- BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Corporate Financial organizations are setup with the principal objective of creating wealth for their shareholders. Corporate Financial organizations are increasingly becoming more complex (and in many cases global) thereby engendering the need for complete, transparent, reliable and accurate information that can be accessed quickly. This is particularly germane as the gulf between ownership and management has grown wider in line with global best practices and most large business organizations are owned by a broad and disparate set of shareholders.
Businesses in much of the 18th and 19th centuries according for Fowokan (1997) were small, with restricted owner-manager teams as capital was produced by a tightly-knit family of investors, and management was carried out solely by owners. In such a setting, there was no external pressure to increase the quantity and quality of corporate reports.
However, as businesses grew, widely dispersed number of small time owners pooled resources for investment, and delegated management to a professional crop of experts. The need to report to the owners became a necessity and an indispensable requirement for remaining in business. Such reports are usually rendered by book-keepers. However at the onset of the 20th century’, according to Onukagha (1993) a number of interrelated factors sped forth rapid development in corporate reporting, as a result of which the business community accepted, the need for some basic and common accounting and reporting standards. Hence,the emergence of Accountant.
Accountant occupies a very unique position in any Corporate Financial organization; he is always referred to as the life-wire of his establishment. Accounting as a profession has come of age and current developments demand of Accountant to go an extra mile before he could be adjudged as an achiever. However, since the Accountant does not operate in a vacuum, he has several forces to contend with if only he is to succeed in this environment that is saddled with political and economic manipulations, moreso, several developments within the profession coupled with the ever- changing environment in which the Accountant operates has brought to light that, there is more to it than that. This is because there are lots of refinements and sophistication which the Accountant has to contend with in the daily performance of his duties.
According to Susan Davis (2015), an accountant is a person who performs financial functions related to the collection, accuracy, recording, analysis and presentation of a business, organization or company’s financial operations. The accountant usually has a variety of administrative roles within a company’s operations. In a smaller business, an accountant’s role may consist of primarily financial data collection, entry and report generation. Middle to larger sized companies may utilize an accountant as an adviser and financial interpreter, who may present the company’s financial data to people within and outside of the business. Generally, the accountant can also deal with third parties, such as vendors, customers and financial institutions.
Out of all the known professionals, the Accountant seems the most mobile as he is unavoidable in almost all the facets of human endeavours. While most of the other professionals are restricted to their areas of operations such that, the Medical Doctor is found in the hospital, the Lawyer in the Chamber or Court, and the Engineer in the factory or workshop. In the case of the Accountant, he is everywhere and hence we have, hospital Accountant, factory/workshop Accountant, Accountant in government service, industry, academia and of course consultancy and professional services. It is no gainsaying that, what blood is to the body is what money is to business and by inference what the Accountant (the custodian of money) is to his organisation and indeed, the Nation.
While it is widely believed that the accountant in any corporate financial institution can serve many roles, from overseeing the preparation of all financial documents related to the company to implementing financial strategies created by management or making investment decisions for the organisation. As a chief accountant in the accounting department, you may sit on the upper management team to play an integral part in developing long-term goals. In a larger business, you might also supervise a team of financial professionals.
Indeed, the modern business environment has changed drastically in a short time. Business technology has advanced business functions and operations to levels not previously believed possible. The role of accounting and business is perhaps one of the most reliable functions in any business organisations.
While a few basic procedures or methods have changed, the purpose of accounting remains the same. Business owners often use accounting to measure the financial performance of their companies and make business decisions. (Vitez2015).
For the enhancement of the performance of his duties according to Edet (2001), Accountant has to undertake the followings: record keeping (book keeping); cost accumulation for decision making (performance evaluation, control, predictions and crises management); auditing and investigation: tax management and other management advisory services such as: liquidation, acquisition and mergers, privatization and commercialization. In conducting or performing those duties, the profession is governed by rules of conduct which include: independence; prudence; consistency and objectivity.
As a result of this, this study intends to explore more on the artificial and natural roles of Accountant in a corporate financial organisation.
- STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Recently, there has been growing concern about ethical and integrity issues in the accounting & auditing profession in public and private on questionable acts. As such, this era has been branded by series of corporate failures, ethical negligence, auditing and accounting scandals both in developed economies and developing economies. Despite the use of various laws and best policies, it is hard to state that corporate financial organizations such as the banking industry in developing countries are inadequate and ineffective. There have been instances where financial institutions in such countries becoming subject to criticisms due to their mismanagement, negligence, and lack of proper accountability and transparency in the way by which such organisation report their financial statement.
Ethical codes for professional accountants globally compels professional accountants, regardless of the roles that they perform, to uphold values of integrity, objectivity, professional competence and due care, confidentiality and professional behavior. However, competing pressures can put professional accountants in challenging and often times difficult situations. These conflicts revolve around ethics, commercial pressures and the burden of regulation. Situations may occur where professional accountants in corporate financial organization are expected to help the organization achieve certain financial outcomes. In some of these cases, the required action may risk compromising compliance with accounting and financial reporting rules. Professional accountants in businesses encounter tension in these situations. As an example, accountants in organizations may face pressures to account for inventories at higher values or select alternative accounting methods which are more financially favorable to the company. However, these actions may be contrary to what are allowable in the accounting standards or to what the professional accountant may feel comfortable with.
In respect of the banking crisis, attention has focused on the role of accountants and auditors who have been involved. Accountants and auditors may be expected to report financial irregularities in company accounts by enhancing transparency and accountability and by developing techniques for fraud detection. However, an emerging body of literature argues that accounting professionals have increasingly used their expertise to conceal and promote anti-social practices ( Bakre 2007).
The investigations launched by the financial regulators and other stakeholders into the Nigerian banking industry revealed that accountants and auditors have not done their work properly; because the nature of qualified audit report practice in Nigeria does not conform to qualified audit report theory . Despite the distress, some banks have opened new branches in some parts of the country while others have ceased operations and changed names to Keystone bank, Mainstreet bank, Enterprise bank and some were acquired. What factors attributed to the distress, change of names and acquiring of those banks? Could it be as a result of the inability of auditors to give qualified audit opinion that conform to theoretical framework; about the capital structure, unethical management practices, customers’ patronage, loss of goodwill or just to change the names? Faith in the audit that is essential to auditor’s job diminished because of severe crimes left undetected in Nigerian banking industry, until billions of naira were lost through the Chief Executive Officers’ (CEO).
In spite of the enabling IT audit tools and the various professional standards such as standards as Nigerian Accounting Standard Board (NASB) now Financial Reporting Council (FRC), American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), Auditing Practices Committee of the Institutes of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) issued for guidance and efficient audit work, there are still reported cases of lapses and scandals in many corporate financial organizations which have been threatening the existence of some quoted companies and capital markets in Nigeria.
Scandals within the accountancy department have threatened the reputation of accountants and in all this type of cases; As a result of non-extended audit tenure impair auditor’s independence and ability to employ professional skepticism on matters at their disposal, also it should be noted that Non adherence to the spirit and letter of corporate governance was also responsible for the corporate scandals.
It is on these premises that the study wishes to examine the roles of Accountant in a corporate financial organization, using the accounting department of the case study.