The Distance Learning Postgraduate Study Programme MSc in Forensic Accounting is a joint Inter-university Degree Study Programme between the Department of Accounting and Finance of the University of Western Macedonia (GR) and the Department of Accounting and Finance of Neapolis University Pafos.
The course focuses on two interrelated areas a) fraud deterrence, avoidance and examination and b) internal audit.
Fraud cases, both internal and external, are common and they have a negative impact on businesses; institutions; employees and the wider community. Contrary to the perception that fraud concerns more the major institutions, based on global studies the truth seems to be substantially different.
The Institute of Internal Auditors defines fraud as «a knowing misrepresentation of truth or concealment of a material fact to induce another to act to or her detriment», while the association of the Certified Fraud Examiners defines it as «any illegal act characterized by deceit, concealment or violation of trust».
Frauds are distinguished from internal and external frauds from which internal frauds are far more dangerous. The association of the Certified Fraud Examiners defines occupational/ internal fraud as «the use of one’s occupation for personal enrichment through the deliberate misuse or misapplication of the organization’s resources or assets». Even though there are many different definitions, the substance is the same. Internal fraud is an attack from within, committed by persons that organizations have trusted.
Despite the fact that the exact financial loss of occupational fraud cannot be estimated precisely due to the fact that many frauds remain undetected or undisclosed, ACFE estimates that companies in the US, lose 5% of their total revenue to occupational fraud and abuse, while the most vulnerable organizations seem to be the smaller organisations rather than multinational companies. Taking into consideration that a) the great majority of companies in an economy are small and medium-size, and b) the financial impact of fraud on these companies is much more significant than in the case of their large competitors, the need for fraud awareness and fraud risk management is obvious.
As far as the second main area covered by the programme, that of internal audit, its importance in the current business structure is so apparent that in many instances the establishment of an internal audit function is mandatory by the Law or regulation. The most common examples are listed companies while many other non-listed companies establish internal audit functions voluntarily.
Based on the Institute of Internal Auditors’ definition, the internal audit is «an independent, objective assurance and consulting activity designed to add value and improve an organization’s operations. It helps an organization accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of risk management, control, and governance processes».
The innovative design of the programme and its market-led curriculum equips students with relevant, up-to-date, skills and knowledge in the areas of forensic accounting & internal audit. The goal of the curriculum is to give students the analytical and conceptual foundations and the necessary skills for future high-level financial executive positions in any country in the world. The programme combines the theoretical rigour of fraud examination and internal audit with empirical, real-world aspects. The emphasis on the practical aspects of the course explains the need to use instructors with relevant professional qualifications and relevant experience in the fields of fraud and internal audit. Whilst the program provides students with a robust grounding in those areas, the curriculum also encourages critical thinking, and fosters skills of research, analysis, synthesis, creativity, and ethical behaviour.
The teaching method in the programme is participatory and interactive so that students can develop their interpersonal skills through active participation in the learning process. For example, class teaching and video presentations will be followed by critical discussions in groups. Also, through group projects, the skills of working in a team will be developed. Moreover, recent research papers will be discussed in a panel format activity with a coordinator and discussants.
The plan is achieved through a curriculum of seven core courses covering fraud examination and internal audit, one elective and a dissertation.