What is a 'Forensic Audit'

A forensic audit is an examination and evaluation of a firm's or individual's financial information for use as evidence in court. A forensic audit can be conducted in order to prosecute a party for fraud, embezzlement or other financial claims. In addition, an audit may be conducted to determine negligence or even to determine how much spousal or child support an individual will have to pay.

BREAKING DOWN 'Forensic Audit'

Forensic auditing is a specialization within the field of accounting, and forensic auditors often provide expert testimony during trial proceedings. Most large accounting firms have a forensic auditing department.

The audit covers a wide range of investigative activities performed by accountants. The process may also include serving as an expert witness in a fraud trial. A forensic audit could also cover situations that do not involve fraud or embezzlement, such as disputes related to a bankruptcy, business closures, and divorces.

The Process

The investigation process follows a similar path as a regular audit of financial statements. The steps can include planning, review and a report. If the investigation was undertaken to discover the presence of fraud, evidence is presented to uncover or disprove the fraud and determine the amount of the damages suffered. The findings are presented to the client — and possibly the court should the case go that far.

During the planning stage, the forensic auditing team establishes objectives, such as identifying if fraud has been committed, how long it has been going on, the parties involved, quantifying the financial loss and providing fraud prevention measures. While gathering evidence, the team collects evidence in the proper manner in order for it to be used in a court case. There are various techniques used to gather evidence. A report is produced for the client with the findings. Lastly, those involved in the forensic audit may be asked to present their findings to the court.

Types of Fraud

Forensic audits uncover several types of fraud. The most common involves theft, including cash, inventory and fraudulent payments. Another type of fraud is corruption, such as a conflict of interest, bribery and extortion. The last major category is financial statement fraud. This relates to misstatements of the financials of a company.

Example

In April 2016, findings from the second installment of a forensic audit of the Elizabeth, New Jersey Board of Education were released. It reported improprieties related to a contract with a lumber company. The report showed the lumber company was not authorized to do business with the township since the contract expired, and it indicated that some items that were billed for had not actually been ordered.

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