BY : VICTORIA ESSIET.
The World has been in a warfare with the outbreak of the Coronavirus disease. The Corona virus which is said to have Originated in China in 2019. Precisely In December 2019, a cluster of pneumonia cases caused by a newly identified coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan. It was first named 2019-novel coronavirus, but was later renamed by the World Health Organization as Corona Disease 2019 (COVID -19).
The COVID-19 virus is said to spread primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that we practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow. Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
As of February 19, the word pandemic had not been used to describe the virus as the Virus had only impacted a few part of the world, However in the surge of the infected cases everyday, impacting both livelihood and sectors, it slowly moved from being called an epidemic to a pandemic.
No doubt the Pandemic has led to a global shift in the management and operations of business entities. It has had more impacts on major sectors of the world including the employment sector, financial sector, Tourism, Aviation Industry, Agriculture industry, Manufacturing Industry and Most critically the health sector. More apparent is its impact on Humanity.
Applying closer lens on the Business world, no doubt the Pandemic has had immense impact leading to Business disruptions and losses.According to Zweighaft 2020, The economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses have yet to be fully comprehended by the business community. A lot of businesses are being forced to shut down either due to government enforcement of shutdowns or owing to lack of patronage in this face of the pandemic, the effects have trickled down and seem long term.
COVID-19 is severely impacting businesses especially manufacturing production in developing countries because: 1) demand from high-income countries for manufacturing goods and raw materials is decreasing; 2) value chains are being disrupted due to delays in the delivery of necessary components and supplies from more technologically advanced countries; 3) other factors, including policies (e.g. restriction of movement of goods and people), inability of employees to reach the workplace or financial constraints, which affect the normal production process.
UN economists have estimated a USD 50 billion decrease in manufacturing production in February 2020, and the IMF warns that the negative economic effects will be felt “very intensively” in developing countries that sell raw materials. All these negative channels will inevitably have an impact on exports from developing countries. The losses in export volume will be further intensified by the decline in energy and commodity prices. UNCTAD projects that developing countries as a whole (excluding China) will lose nearly USD 800 billion in terms of export revenue in 2020.
More concretely, this could lead to financial bankruptcy for most business and could lead to businesses folding up. The question that Ultimately follows is, what then is the role of Forensics Accountants in the major losses and interruptions to businesses as a result of the Corona Virus. In many societies, businesses have Insurer carrier or providers that help to insure that claims are covered over interruptions caused by disaster related activities such as fire or theft. However, with the rise of the pandemic, there has been increase in claims by organizations over losses and Interruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although, majority of the roles of a forensic accountant is to dig deep on issues related to fraud.
Nevertheless, on the issue related to business interruption claim, a forensic accountant should have an understanding of a “dispute environment” which exists in the context of an insurance claim. The surge of the Pandemic has seen the rise of the demand for Forensic Accountants by clients or their insurance adjuster to assist in preparing a business interruption claim (“BI claim,” or “BIC”).
One may wonder why, there is the non-adoption of Insured’s company or personal accountant as an alternative. The answer which may not be far-fetched. Generally, asides the fact that a forensic person may be experienced through education, training, experience, certification and prior case work and testimony. A lot of times, insured accountants may lack far behind in objectivity because they prepared the books and records, or may not have the capacity to address many of the issues in this matter owing to first, the potential conflictual nature of coverage disputes and more so because they are mostly uninformed about potential fraud issues.
The question that finally comes into question is of what use is the Forensic Accountant in this regard. Below outlines the Role
Preparation of Calculation of Losses from Business Interruption
The Forensic accountant will prepare the BI claim for submission to the insurance carrier.
In the event that the claim is contested or rejected by the insurer, standard policies have a dispute resolution mechanism, or one is provided for by state law (called arbitration or appraisal):
Evidence and testimony are presented by forensic accountants (called appraisers) representing: The insured, The insurer.
The calculations of the respective parties’ BI claims, and the underlying data will be examined and debated . The proceedings are administered, and decided by, a neutral appraiser, called an umpire.
In the event the dispute between the insured and the insurer remains unresolved, counsel will be retained and the matter will go to state court for disposition.
Depending on the jurisdiction, the same Forensic accountant may provide testimony in the matter.
Significant financial losses incurred for most business as a result of the pandemic no doubt has created an awareness for the adoption of insurance policies . Insurance policies seem to be the low hanging fruit for most businesses. Many organizations are considering how insurance policies will save them from the seemingly financial losses. Since it has become difficult to make predictions of sales or any other type of business activity. Therefore Insurance carriers or providers will have no choice but to consider the level to which their policies requires an adjustment to revenue or other projections that include the measurement of losses as a result of business interruptions. In order to deal with issues brought as a result of the pandemic, Forensic accountants are useful in helping insured in getting claims of business disruptions ; they make careful consideration of purely COVID- 19 related damages to businesses, they help in this regard, to make adequate calculations and detailed analysis of damages to be submitted to Insurer providers , while at the same time double checking the calculations made by Insurer carriers to avoid issues with fraud. Forensic accounting no doubt has become paramount at this era and the skillsets most coveted by these professionals cannot be overemphasized.