Obstacles to Integrating Forensic Accounting in the Accounting Curriculum: The Case of Bahrain

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1 Global Review of Accounting and Finance Vol. 6. No. 1. March 2015 Issue. Pp Obstacles to Integrating Forensic Accounting in the Accounting Curriculum: The Case of Bahrain Abdullah Al-Hadrami * and Sutan Hidayat ** The importance of forensic accounting is increasing steadily all over the world. Therefore, forensic accounting is seen as one of the most important careers in the near future, yet universities in Bahrain are still not offering separate program or course in forensic accounting. This study aims to explore educators opinion regarding the main obstacles to integrate forensic accounting in the accounting curriculum across universities in Bahrain. The study surveyed all accounting educators in universities across Bahrain. 34 accounting instructors from all universities in Bahrain completely answered the survey questionnaire. Like the results of the previous studies, the results of this study also indicated that the majority of instructors are expecting an increasing demand on forensic accounting. Additionally, it has been found that obstacles related to academic matters (curriculum and faculty) are the most important obstacles that prevent the accounting Department in universities across Bahrain from offering a program or a course in forensic accounting. However, the study found a significant difference among respondents as for the obstacles to integrate forensic accounting in the accounting curriculum only when the respondents are grouped according to their academic rank. Accordingly, and in light of these results the accounting departments in the universities across Bahrain should revise their academic curriculum to integrate forensic accounting, and to attract qualified faculties who have good experience in the field of forensic accounting. Field of research: Accounting Education 1. Introduction As it has been discussed in many literatures, accounting is defined as a system that identifies, records, and communicates relevant, reliable and comparable information in order to help the users in making better decisions (Wild, et. al, 2007). The above definition clearly highlights one of the most important characteristics of accounting information namely reliability. However, this is not always the case in practice. For the last decades, the world has seen several frauds in accounting both in developed and developing countries that resulted in serious damages to the social and economical aspects of a society (Efiong, 2012). As a result, there is a need to prevent further damages caused by frauds in accounting through emphasizing efforts on the development of a fraud detection and litigation support service known as forensic accounting (Rezaee et.al, 1992). * Dr. Abdullah Al-HAdrami, Business Department, University College of Bahrain, Bahrain. ** Dr. Sutan Hidayat, Business Department, University College of Bahrain, Bahrain.

2 Forensic accounting is a specialized field of accounting that portrays arrangements that result from real or anticipated disputes or litigation. Forensic accounting combines accounting, auditing and investigative skills to solve problems involving legal matters (Modugu and Anyaduba, 2013). This field of accounting has drawn a significant attention of regulators, academicians and accounting practitioners especially in the developed world. In order to support the industry need of forensic accountants, many universities in the developed countries such as the U.S have integrated forensic accounting courses into their accounting curriculum (Ozkul and Pamukcu, 2012). On the other hand, beside there is a need and demand on forensic accountant career in their respective countries, most developing countries still find difficulties in integrating forensic accounting courses into their accounting curriculum (Zadeh and Ramazani, 2012). Kingdom of Bahrain as one of the developing countries is not an exception. Recently, it was reported that the number of accounting frauds in the kingdom is expected to increase in the upcoming years (Price Water Cooper House, 2011). As a result, forensic accounting practices exist in many accounting firms across the country serving a wide variety of litigation and investigative needs i. Surprisingly, despite the existence of forensic accounting services in practice, there is no forensic accounting courses offered across universities in Bahrain (Hidayat and Al-Sadiq, 2014). This situation has made accounting firms across Bahrain to solely rely on foreign universities' graduates to fill up their forensic accountants' position. In the long run, this situation is not favorable for the country, thus offering a new program in forensic accounting or at least integrating a course in forensic accounting into the accounting curriculum in the universities should be highly considered to fill the gap in the increasing demand on this career. The above situation also has posed a serious question "why do not universities in Bahrain offer forensic accounting courses in their accounting curriculum? Or in other words "what are the obstacles? The above question has become the motivation of this study. In other words the main objective of this study is to identify the obstacles of integrating forensic accounting into accounting curriculum of universities across Bahrain. In order to achieve this objective, accounting instructors across universities in Bahrain were surveyed to identify the obstacles. The findings of this study are different from the previous studies in terms of the obstacles to integrating forensic accounting in the accounting curriculum as the results of this study found more severe obstacles than the previous studies. This is probably because accounting education in Bahrain still lacks of attention from the management of the universities across Bahrain as proven by limited infrastructures and numbers of faculty members. It is expected that the results of the study can be used by universities' management across Bahrain as an input to find solutions in overcoming the obstacles. The results of the study also can be used by higher learning authority in the country to set up a policy in order to support the development of forensic accounting education across universities in the country. The study also can be used as a reference for future research in the area of forensic accounting. However, it is very important to note that since this study is conducted only in Bahrain, the results of this study cannot be used as a universal conclusion. This study is divided into five sections. Section two describes the previous studies in the area of forensic accounting that have been done in other countries which are used as the reference for this study. Section three describes the research method, sample selection and statistical tools employed. 166

3 Section four describes the findings and analysis of the study. Section five comes out with summary of the major findings and some recommendations for stakeholders of forensic accounting in Bahrain. 2. Literature Review In this section, several related previous studies in the area of forensic accounting from developed and developing countries are reviewed and presented. All the previous studies are used as the references of this study. Review of literature concludes that there are significant numbers of studies about forensic accounting conducted in developed countries especially in the United States (Rezaee and Burton, 1997; Buckhoff and Schrader, 2000; Rezaee et. al, 2003; Seda and Peterson, 2008; Daniels, et. al, 2013). On the other hand, it is observed that less number of studies about forensic accounting conducted in developing countries such as in Nigeria, Turkey, Iran and Bahrain (Efiong, 2012; Zadeh and Ramazani, 2012; Enofe, et. al, 2013; Hidayat and Al-Sadiq, 2014). In addition, only two studies are found that specifically discussed the obstacles of integrating forensic accounting into accounting curriculum in the universities (Razaee et. al, 1992; Seda and Peterson, 2008). The review of literature also concludes that this study might be the first research that focuses on the obstacles in integrating forensic accounting into accounting curriculum across universities in Bahrain and might be also the first study across developing countries. It is interesting to note that almost all the above previous studies employed a survey questionnaire as their research method. In addition, most of them found that the global demand for forensic accounting education is expected to increase in the future and therefore there is a need to integrate forensic accounting into accounting curriculum of universities worldwide (Rezaee and Burton, 1997; Buckhoff and Schrader, 2000; Rezaee et. al, 2003; Seda and Peterson, 2008; Efiong, 2012; Daniels, et. al, 2013; Enofe, et. al, 2013; Hidayat and Al-Sadiq, 2014). 3. Research Methodology 3.1 Research Method Based on the previous literatures, it is found that most studies related to forensic accounting education used survey questionnaire as their research method. Therefore, this study uses the same method as the previous studies (Rezaei and Burto, 1997; Buckhoff and Schrader, 2000; Rezaei et al, 2003; Zadeh and Ramazani, 2012; Hidayat and Al-Sadiq, 2014). Hidayat and Al-Sadiq (2014) particularly conducted a survey in Bahrain about the opinion of accounting practitioners in the country on the importance of perceived benefits of forensic accounting education and the importance of integrating forensic accounting courses into accounting curriculum of universities in Bahrain. Hidayat and Al-Sadiq (2014) found that the accounting practitioners in Bahrain are in the opinion that the perceived benefits of forensic accounting education as very important and integrating the courses into accounting curriculum of universities in Bahrain is also regarded as very important. 167

4 However, Hidayat and Al-Sadiq (2014) did not identify the obstacles of integrating forensic accounting into accounting curriculum of universities across the country. Therefore, this study attempts to fill the gap in the literature by extending the work of Hidayat and Al-Sadiq (2014). In addition, the obstacles of integrating forensic accounting into accounting curriculum at the universities as identified by Razaee et. al, (1992) and Seda and Peterson (2008) in other countries are also used as the main reference in developing the survey questionnaire. The next section presents the research methodology of this study. The questions in the questionnaire are divided into four groups. The first group collects information about the demographic profile of the respondents. The second group of questions collects information about accounting educators' familiarity with forensic accounting education and their opinions about the demand for forensic accounting. The third group of questions collects information about accounting educators' views on the severity of the obstacles of integrating forensic accounting into accounting curriculum of universities in Bahrain. The third group of questions uses 5 Likert-scale types of questions. This scale has the following scale values: Very Severe (VS) Severe (S) Not Sure/I don't Know (N) Somewhat Severe (SS) Not Severe (NS) The third group of questions consists of 7 questions divided into 3 questions related to academic matters (faculty and curriculum) and 4 questions related to administrative matters and demand from both employers and the students. 3.2 Data Gathering Due to the limited number of accounting educators in Bahrain as this country is the smallest country in the GCC in term of area, the survey questionnaire has been distributed to all accounting educators across all universities in Bahrain. 34 accounting educators participated in filling up the questionnaire of the current study. 3.3 Statistical Treatment The collected data are analyzed using the following techniques: 1. Descriptive analysis: to determine each of the distribution percentage and the weighted mean of the responses. This has been conducted using the following two equations: where: a- Percentage of Distribution = F/N x 100 F = frequency of an item or response. 168

5 N = total number of items or responses. b- Weighted Mean - The arithmetical average when all the scores are added and divided by number of items obtained using the following formula: M = ΣX / N where: M = mean ΣX = sum of the scores / measures in the series N = number of cases 2- Analysis of Variance (ANOVA): to determine the existence of significant differences among respondents when they are grouped according to gender, level of education, academic rank, and work experience. 4. Data Analysis and Findings 4.1 Demographics of the Educators (Respondents) Table 1 shows the demographic profile of the respondents. As seen in this table the majority of the accounting educators in Bahrain are males (91.2%). Additionally, the results indicate that 22 (64.7%) of the educators have PhD degree, and most of them obtained a rank of assistant professor (38.2%) followed by the rank of lecturer (35.3%). Moreover, 12 respondents (35.2%) have over 15 years of experience. 4.2 Forensic Accounting and Educators in Bahrain The analysis of the educators' responses indicate that 22 (65%) of them are familiar about forensic accounting, but 10 respondents (29.4%) declared that they are not familiar about forensic accounting and 2 respondents (5.6%) left this question blank. This indicates that the majority of accounting educators are aware of forensic accounting. However, the unfamiliarity of 29.4 % of the respondents about this important topic put more responsibility on the accounting departments at the universities in Bahrain to increase the awareness among accounting educators about forensic accounting. 169

6 Table 1: Demographic profile of the respondents Gender Frequency Percent Male % Female 3 8.8% Total % Level of Education PhD % Master % Bachelor 2 5.9% Total % Academic Rank Professor 3 8.8% Associate % professor Assistant professor % Lecturer % Total % Work Experience Less than 5 years % 6-10 years % % Over % Total % The shortage of the universities role in spreading the awareness about forensic accounting is very clear from the educators' responses about the source of information about forensic accounting, that 26.5% of the educators indicated that they obtained knowledge about forensic accounting from the internet followed by journals and text books (23.5%). Only 17.6% of the educators indicated that they got information about forensic accounting from workshops and conferences. Regarding the educators expectation about the future demand on forensic accounting 56% of them are expecting a steadily increase. But 20.6% believe that the future demand will not witness any changes. On the other hand, 2.9% of the respondents expecting a decrease on the demand for forensic accounting, and 20.6% are not sure whether this demand will change or not. 4.3 Obstacles to Integrating Forensic Accounting into the Accounting Curriculum Table 2 shows a summary of the educators' responses regarding the severity of seven obstacles that prevent the integration of forensic accounting in the accounting curriculum. The first 3 questions are related to academic matters and the rest are related to administrative and demand from both employers and students. 170

7 Table 2: Distribution of Accounting Educators' Responses about the Severity of Obstacles to Integrate Forensic Accounting in the Accounting Curriculum of Universities across Bahrain Item M* VI** Limited room for additional courses in the accounting S curriculum No qualified faculty to teach forensic accounting topics S Not of significant importance to be included in the S curriculum Lack of administrative interest and support N Scarcity of instructional materials N Absence of job opportunities N No student interest N *M: Weighted Average. ** VI: Verbal Interpretations. Overall Weighted Average: 3.51 As seen in table 2 above, the overall weighted average of the seven obstacles is 3.51 with verbal interpretation of severe. Only obstacles related to the academic matters have a verbal interpretation of severe namely limited room for additional courses in the accounting curriculum, no qualified faculty to teach forensic accounting topics and not of significant importance to be included in the curriculum. On the other hand, obstacles related to the administrative matters, and demand by employers and students have a verbal interpretation of Not sure. This indicates that the main prevention for the integration of forensic accounting in the accounting curriculum is related to academic matters. The first statement (Limited room for additional courses in the accounting curriculum) has the highest weighted average (M= 4.20) followed by the second statement (No qualified faculty to teach forensic accounting topics) with a weighted average of (M= 4.09). In the third place comes statement number three (Not of significant importance to be included in the curriculum) with a weighted average of (M= 3.82). In general, the findings of this study are in line with the findings of Seda and Peterson (2008) where academic related matters are found to be the most severe obstacles to integrating forensic accounting into the accounting curriculum. However, this study also found one item in the questionnaire namely not of significant importance to be included in the curriculum as a severe obstacle to integrating forensic accounting into accounting curriculum of universities in Bahrain which contradicts the finding of Seda and Peterson (2008) who conducted a similar study in the USA. 171

8 4.4 ANOVA Analysis Several analysis of variances were conducted to indicate any statistically significant differences among educators about the severity of the obstacles that prevent the integration of forensic accounting in the accounting curriculum, when the respondents are grouped according to gender, educational level, years of experience, and academic rank. The cut off point for this analysis is 5%. Table 3 summarizes the results of ANOVA test. As seen in table 3 below, the only statistically significant difference was found when the respondents were grouped according to their academic rank. That associate professors perceived the severity of the seven obstacles more than the other academic ranks, this followed by lecturers, assistant professors, and professors respectively. Using a significant level of 0.05, no significant gender differences were found for the responses of the educators regarding the severity of the seven obstacles. However, female educators consider the seven obstacles as severe (M=3.67) while male educators not sure about the severity of these obstacles (M=3.49). This means that there is a difference between males and females regarding their perception of the seven obstacles but this difference is not statistically significant. This might be due to the low number of the female educators who participated in the current study. * P<0.05 Table 3: Summary of ANOVA Results Severity of the obstacles to integrate forensic accounting n in the accounting curriculum Gender Male 3 1 Level of education Mean F Test F-ratio F sig Female Bachelor Master or equivalent 0 PhD or equivalent 2 Academic rank Professor * Years of Experience Associate professor Assistant professor 3 Lecturer years or less 6-10 years years More than

9 With regard to the level of education, Table 3 also shows no statistically significant differences when the respondents are grouped according to their level of education for their perception of the severity of the obstacles that prevent the integration of forensic accounting in the accounting curriculum. As seen in Table 3 above, respondents who hold Bachelor degree have the highest mean (M=3.79). This followed by the holder of PhD or equivalent degree with a mean of 3.49, finally holders of Master or equivalent degree have a mean of 3.39 out of 5. These results indicate only the holder of Bachelor degree perceive the seven obstacles as severe while the other two groups are not sure about the severity of these obstacles. Finally, the results of ANOVA test indicated no significant difference among the respondents when they are grouped according to years of experience for their perception of the severity of the obstacles that prevent the integration of forensic accounting in the accounting curriculum. As presented in Table 3 above, the first two groups (5 years or less and 6-10 years) perceived the seven obstacles as severe with a mean of (M= 3.64 and M= 3.59 respectively) while educators who have 11 years and more of experience are not sure about the severity of the obstacles. The results of this study compliment the findings of Hidayat and Al-Sadiq (2014) by identifying the obstacles to integrating forensic accounting into accounting curriculum across universities in Bahrain. In addition, Hidayat and Al-Sadiq (2014) surveyed the opinion of accounting practitioners in Bahrain while this study surveyed the opinion of accounting educators. 5. Conclusion The analysis of the study questionnaire indicated that the obstacles related to the academic matters (curriculum and faculty) are the main obstacles that prevent the integration of forensic accounting in the accounting curriculum in the universities across Bahrain. The greatest academic obstacle is that there is no space for additional course in the accounting curriculum. To overcome this problem, universities in Bahrain can offer a forensic accounting course as an elective course in the accounting curriculum or as a university elective course that can be studied by any student from any major in the university. The second severe academic obstacle is the lack of qualified faculty to teach forensic accounting. This can be overcome by attracting qualified professional forensic accountant or by sending the current faculty to workshops and training courses in forensic accounting. A surprising result indicated that the majority of the accounting educators in Bahrain don t think that a separate course for forensic accounting is important to be included in the accounting curriculum. This might be due to the fact that forensic accounting topics can be incorporated into the existing accounting courses such as auditing and financial accounting. This result implies the low awareness of the accounting educators about the benefits of offering a separate course in forensic accounting in the accounting curriculum. Therefore, its important to conduct seminars and workshops for the accounting educators in Bahrain by professional forensic accountants and academicians who have good knowledge and experience in forensic accounting to present the increasing demand on forensic accountant career and the benefits employers can obtain from improving students knowledge and skills in forensic accounting 173

10 which can be accomplished by offering a separate program in forensic accounting or at least a separate course in the accounting curriculum. In summary, the inclusion of forensic accounting in the accounting curriculum will benefit not only students and the institutions of higher education but also practitioners, economy, and the whole society, as it will evolve ethics and improve accountants skepticism. Accordingly, the process of detecting fraud will be more effective and less costly. The results of the current study can be used as a reference for universities across Bahrain to start offering forensic accounting. At the same time the universities need to overcome the challenges identified by the current study as suggested previously in order to successfully integrate forensic accounting into their curriculums. If the obstacles to integrating forensic accounting across Bahrain are overcome the next question is which one is better for the universities, either to open a new program in forensic accounting or just integrate a course in forensic accounting in their accounting curriculum? This suggests a further research to conduct a comparison between the benefits of opining a new program in forensic accounting or integrating a forensic accounting course in the accounting curriculum. Moreover, the current study surveyed only the academicians opinion regarding the obstacles to integrating forensic accounting in the accounting curriculum, including the opinion of the practitioners might lead to more powerful results. Endnotes i It was accessed on March 22, References Buckhoff, TA & Schrader, RW 2000, The Teaching of Forensic Accounting, Journal of Forensic Accounting, vol.1, no.1, pp Crumbley, DL 2001, Forensic accounting: Older than you think, Journal of Forensic Accounting, vol.11, no.2, pp Daniels,BW, Ellis, Y & Gupta, RD Accounting Educators and Practitioners' Perspectives on Fraud and Forensic Topics in the Accounting Curriculum, Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues, vol.16, no.2, pp Efiong, E 2012, Forensic Accounting Education: An Exploration of Level of Awareness in Developing Economies-Nigeria as A Case Study, International Journal of Business and Management, CCSE, vol.7, no.4, pp Elitas, C, Karakoc M, & Gorgulu 2011, Forensic Accounting and Financial Fraud in Nigeria: An Empirical Approach, International Journal of Business and Social Science, vol.4 no.7, pp Enofe, AO, Okpako, PO & Atube, EN 2013, The Impact of Forensic Accounting on Fraud Detection, Eurorean Journal of Business and Management vol.5, no.26, pp Ezaee, Z, Crumbley, DL, & Elmore, RC 2003, Forensic Accounting Education: A Survey of Academicians and Practitioners, Advances in Accounting Education, viewed 16 March 2014, <http://ssrn.com/abstract=518263> 174

11 Hidayat SE, & Al-Sadiq AA 2014, A Survey on the Need to Offer Forensic Accounting Education in the Kingdom of Bahrain, International Journal of Pedagogical Innovations, vol. 2, no.2. Ozkul, FU & Pamukcu, A 2012, Fraud Detection and Forensic Accounting. In K. a. Caliyurt, Emerging Fraud: Fraud Cases and Emerging Economies, (pp ), Springer, Berlin. Modugu KP & Anyaduba, JO 2013, Forensic Accounting and Financial Fraud in Nigeria: An Empirical Approach, International Journal of Business and Social Science, vol.4 no.7, pp Price waterhouse Coopers, Global Economic Crime Survey 2003, PWC, Viewed 3 March 2014, <http://download.pwc.com/ie/pubs/2014_global_economic_crime_survey.pdf> Rezaee, Z, Crumbley, DL, & Elmore, RC 2003, Forensic Accounting Education A Survey of Academicians and Practitioners, Advances in Accounting Education, viewed 5 March, 2014 <http://ssrn.com/abstract=518263>. Rezaee, Z & Burton, EJ 1997, Forensic accounting education: insights from academicians and certified fraud examiner practitioners, Managerial Auditing Journal vol. 12, no. 9, pp Rezaee, Z, Lander, GH, & Reinstein, A Forensic Accounting: Challenges and opportunities. CPA Journal, vol. 51, no.5, pp Seda, M & Peterson, BK 2008, The Emergence of Forensic Accounting Programs in Higher Education, Management Accounting Quarterly, vol.9, no.3, pp Zadeh, HE & Ramazani, M 2012, Accountant s Perception of Forensic Accounting (Case Study of Iran), Global Journal of Management and Business Research, vol. 12, no. 6, pp Wild, JJ, Subramanyam, KR, & Halsey, RF 2005, Financial Statement Analysis. McGraw- Hill, New York. 175

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