The Accounting Profession and Nat
THE JOURNAL OF ACCOUNTING ANAN Volume 1, No 1, March 2009 Published by: Nigerian College of Accountancy, Jos Postgraduate Professional College and Training Arm of ANAN … Advancing the Science of Accountancy EDITORIAL BOARD Prof. Edet Robinson Iwok, Ph. D, FCNA Prof. A. A. Okwoli, Ph. D, FCNA Prof. Abimaje Akpa, Ph. D, FCNA Prof. B. C. Osisioma, Ph. D, FCNA Prof. Edet B. Akpakpan, Ph. D, FCNA, Prof. A. C. Ezejulue, Ph. D, FCNA Prof. A. S. Mikailu, Ph. D, FNIA Chairman, Education, Training, Research and Technical Committee, ANAN Chief V.
C. Azie Accountant-General of the Federation Auditor-General of the Federation Registrar, ANAN Chairman, Fed. Inland Revenue Service Director of Research, National Universities Commission Treasurer, ANAN – Business Manager Prof. M. A. Mainoma, Ph. D, FCNA Mr. C. B. Umoh Editor-in-CHief Editor Associate Editor Associate Editor Associate Editor Associate Editor Associate Editor Member Member Member Member Member Member Member Member Secretary Assistant Secretary The Journal of Accounting is a biannual publication.
The Accounting Profession and Nat Essay Example
All contributions of articles, book reviews, research notes, etc, intended for consideration for publication in this Journal should be in English and should be submitted in two hard copies and a soft copy. Articles, book reviews and research notes intended for consideration for publication are subjected to reviews by three experts in the related field. The primary criterion for publication in the Journal is the significance of the contribution to the advancement of the science of accounting and related literature.
The decision of the Editorial Board, based on the advice of the reviewers, is final and not subject to negotiation. All correspondence, enquiries, contributions and research notes should be submitted to: The Editor, The Journal of Accounting, C/o Nigerian College of Accountancy, Plot 42T Bauchi Ring Road, Dogon Dutse, P. M. B. 2734, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria. Subscription Rates: Nigeria Outside Nigeria – N1000 (Exclusive of postage) N1000 $10 (Exclusive of postage) Prof. Edet R.
Iwok Editor-in-Chief iv EDITORIAL Like any other profession, Accounting is not static. It constantly responds to the dynamism of human existence because Accountants are by nature curious and experimental. Their curiosity causes them to enquire into the proximate problems affecting their profession and practice. Again, two great inventions that have helped accountants and indeed professionals in other fields of human endeavour are the inventions of writing and of scientific method.
The continuous growth of accounting knowledge and practical insights requires a reasoning, questioning, and experimental mind of the Accountant. The birth of The Journal of Accounting is therefore, a platform for reasoning, questioning and experimental mind in the field of accounting and its closely-related disciplines. It is a platform for cross-fertilization of ideas and of advancing the science of accountancy in line with ANAN’s vision and mission.
In this maiden edition of The Journal of Accounting we try to grapple with the following issues: The Effect of Audit on Corporate Sustainability, Growth and Development; Accounting and Nation Building; The Role of Accountants in the Attainment of Banking Sector Consolidation Objectives in Nigeria; The Use of Ratios in Financial Analysis and Prediction of Financial Crisis; The Relationship and Problems of Auditors in a Joint Audit Exercise: A Survey of Ten Audit Companies in Nigeria; Accountants Role in Investing in Stocks and Shares in the Capital Market; The Undisclosed Facts on Exempted Value Added Tax (VAT) Items in Nigeria: A Survey of Northern and Southern Zones; and Entrepreneurship and Africa’s Quest for Development: A Review of Family Business in Nigeria. It must, however, be made clear here that contributors’ views expressed in the treatment of issues in the Journal do not and may not represent the views of the Editorial Board, the College, and/or the Association as a whole. Finally, the Editorial Board wishes to acknowledge with gratitude the support of ANAN Council in granting the permission to commence the publication of this Journal. iii The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009
THE EFFECT OF AUDIT ON CORPORATE SUSTAINABILITY, GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT By J. R. A. Adefiranye Abstract For profitability and liquidity, companies need adequate finances. Finance stakeholders (that is, shareholders, creditors and other financial lenders) are the providers of these finances. Their interests and beliefs in the activities of the companies are required to make them invest. A recent ‘share investments’ survey in Lagos and Abuja, involving 100 respondents covering investors and prospective investors (60 and 40 respondents respectively), revealed that 70 percent of the investors place heavy reliance on the integrity of a company’s auditor before investing in that company. 0 percent of the prospective investors chose never to advance money of whatever form to any company because they have lost confidence in audit firms. This, they hinged on the fact that companies, despite their stunning performance reports attested to by audit firms, still go bankrupt. Using questionnaires and interviews, we gathered relevant data from investors, prospective investors, audit firms and some financial institutions (banks) for this study. We analysed these data using descriptive and inferential statistical analysis tools. It was discovered that there is a very strong link between audit and finance stakeholders’ confidence in financial statements.
This means that even though a company may put good corporate governance structure in place, audit still has a greater role to play in making the companies perform better and gain access to ‘investible’ funds. The recommendations made by the study include the need for accounting professional bodies to ensure that auditors take the issue of ethical practices with all seriousness. If well coordinated, confidence of the investing public will be won and companies will gain access to more funds that will Introduction bility of companies to remain in business, grow and develop has always been linked to profitability and liquidity. Virtually all stakeholders are in accord on the fact that these two profitability and liquidity are the necessary ingredients for corporate growth and development.
To make these possible, that is to be profitable and liquid, companies need reasonable and sustainable investments. The quantum of investment is one important factor in the determination of the extent to which a company can do business. Ceteris parribus, a company with more investments has a higher possibility of being parribus, profitable and possibly liquid than another with lesser investments. To be able to invest, however, every company needs reasonable and sustainable finances. Usually, shareholders, creditors and other lenders (especially financial institutions such as banks), contribute these finances. In A 1 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 his study, these investors shareholders, creditors and other financial institutions are collectively referred to as finance stakeholders. For any company to be able to raise reasonable finances for investments, finance stakeholders’ interests must be won. A company that successfully and convincingly wins her finance stakeholders’ interest will, therefore, be able to pull more finances to itself, hence, have reasonable amounts for investments, than the one which is unable to win such interests. Winning of these highly required interests is not magical. Finance stakeholders will not hesitate to advance more finances to the company once they are convinced n the performance(s) of the company’s agents (the managers of the company) and/or are sure of the security of their investments. If the agents can show, with convincing evidence(s), that they adequately managed and utilized the initial amounts given to them, the stakeholders investments are secured and have higher probability of yielding better returns, they (company agents) can be sure of receiving more amounts when needed. Reports on the extent to which the companies’ resources have been utilized, which will inform the finance stakeholders on the need for increased finances, when required, or otherwise, are embodied in a document called statements. financial statements.
Preparation of financial statements is one of the mandatory statutory obligations of all companies, especially the public companies (PLCs) listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. They (financial statements) are prepared by the agents of each company. For the fact that each company’s agents have the yam and the knife, that is, they are responsible for running the affairs of the business and reporting their stewardship, there is a higher possibility of record manipulations in such a way as will favour them and cover up their inefficiencies in what is called creative accounting. accounting. This is one of the major problems in agency relationships. To this extent, finance stakeholders do not just rely on financial statements as presented by the agents of the companies.
They, instead, rely on the statements based on the opinion(s) of a ‘third party’ who serves as ‘eagle eyes’ to each auditors. company. This third party is what we know as auditors. Our interest in the contributions of audit to corporate growth, if any, was gingered by responses from some respondents in a recent ‘shares investment’ survey conducted in Lagos and Abuja. (One hundred (100) persons, including both investors and prospective investors, constituted the respondents). Two most striking issues from their responses are the one from a prospective investor that he will not advance his money to any company by way of any investment 2 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 whatsoever except the company’s financial statement and/or prospectus are ttested to by some specific audit firms (he mentioned some audit firms), and the other that responded that he does not have interest in investing in any company or advancing loan to any company, except a business to be personally owned by him, for the fact that auditors mostly compromised their positions for financial gains (field study, 2006). In a follow up questionnaire to this respondent, so as to help in supporting his allegations, he, though, declined to mention names, queried the easier collapse of banks and some companies especially prior to the ‘mega-bank’ era recently introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria, under the governorship of Prof. Charles Soludo, despite the fact that these banks and companies presented stunning and impressive financial statements, attested to as ‘true and fair’ by audit firms. Considering the recent turbulence in Cadbury Nigeria, for instance, one will ordinarily agree with this respondent.
It is on these that the problems to be addressed by this discussion rely. The first problem is, what impact has audit on sustainability, growth and development of companies? The second problem is, what is/are the expectation(s) of the investing public from the professional bodies that are regulating accounting practices in Nigeria with respect to upholding ethical standards of audit in Nigeria? We shall test one hypothesis in this study. The null of the hypothesis is that “the growth of any company has no relationship with investing publics’ confidence in its audited financial statement”. Efforts were made to gather relevant data from five states in Nigeria: Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna, Kano and Rivers.
These were chosen by virtue of conglomeration of businesses and banks and the presence of head offices of most of the companies and banks. In addition, eleven corporate bodies comprising companies and banks were selected to aid in the conduct of the study. The remainder of the paper has the following organization. Section two summarizes some of the theoretical issues on which this study is based, section three presents the research methodology adopted for the study, section four presents and discusses the findings of this study while section five offers concluding remarks and recommendations. Theoretical Issues Auditing: From Civilization to Date 3
The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 The word ‘auditor’ literally means ‘one who hears’. Auditing is as old as civilization. It was used in ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire, and the Great Mercantile establishments of the middle ages. Prior to 1500, the main focus of accounting was on governmental and family units. In this period, two scribes were used to keep independent records of the same transactions and it was designed to prevent defalcations within the treasures of the ancient rulers. Between 1850 and 1905, the corporate form of business was brought into the fore. This came up as a result of the industrial revolution, which brought up corporations.
Between 1933 and 1940, a relative confusion arose regarding the main objective of auditing. This centered on the issue of ‘fraud detection’. While some held this as the main objective of audit, others thought otherwise. The periods between 1940 and 1960 introduced a significant change in audit objectives. With the pronouncements of American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) in 1951, auditors are expected to hold fairness of financial statements as a virtue rather than emphasize fraud detection. With continuous amendments, it became obvious that even though fraud detection is not to be held as the main objective of auditing, it yet forms an integral part of it.
Walter and Williams (1992:138) captured this as clear as possible thus: …in performing the audit, the auditor obtains evidence concerning each of the specific objectives, (which includes existence or occurrence, completeness, rights and obligations, valuation or allocation and presentation and disclosure). From the evidence accumulated, the auditor reaches a conclusion as to whether any of management assertions are misrepresentations. Subsequently, conclusions about the individual assertions are combined to reach an opinion on the fairness of the financial statements as a whole. This had always been the position of the courts of law. For instance, in Re: Kingston Cotton Mill Co. 1876) 2 ch, 279, the court posited that: … an auditor is not bound to be a detective, or as was said, to approach his work with suspicion or with a foregone conclusion that something is wrong. He is a watchdog but not a bloodhound… if there is anything calculated to excite suspicion, he should prove it to the bottom;… Even though, Judge Cardozo, in Ultra Mares Corp. v. Touche (1931), in an attempt to uphold the doctrine of privity of contract held that: … if liability for negligence exists a thoughtless slip or blunder, the failure to detect a theft or forgery beneath the cover of deceptive entries may expose accountants to a liability in indeterminate amount, at an indeterminate time, to an indeterminate class. The 4 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 azards of a business conducted on these terms are so extreme as to enkindle doubt whether a flaw may not exist in the implication of a duty that exposes to these consequences. The court yet found the auditors guilty of negligence. Quoting Alan (1970:305), Olugbami (1999) wrote: …litigations against accountants have increased dramatically in recent years. The practice of suing accounting firms, which has grown in popularity among disillusioned investors and their attorneys, is the subject of much controversy in the financial community… when a company goes bankrupt, a disgruntled investor tries to find a solvent party from whom he recover damages. Often, this is the independent accounting firm… further, certain recent decision have shown that accountants are vulnerable to litigation…
Decided cases, for example, Credit Alliance Corporation And Leasing Services Corporation v. Arthur Andersen & Co. (1981); Funds Of Funds Ltd V. Arthur Andersen & Co (1982), have consistently shown that aggrieved parties can succeed in cases against accounting professionals where the report they relied upon, by virtue of the professionals’ attestation, are faulty or falsified. The profession has not in any way exposed the auditors to dangers, for the fact that, whenever the professional accountants have reasons to doubt the correctness of reports they are to attest to, they have the liberty to either decline attesting to such a report or if they must, they should give necessary qualifications to the report.
The use of the words ‘subject to’, ‘except’, ‘adverse’, etc, by the auditors, whenever they are in doubt as to any material misstatement by the company’s agents, is what is needed to put whoever is using the financial statement on guard. This also saves the professional from undue litigations and embarrassments. For professionals to do their work as best as possible, however, independence must remain their virtue and watchword. Whenever an audit firm makes a mistake of getting too involved in other consultancy activities with their clients, the result is not always palatable. This is obvious in the recent Enron’s case. As reported by Alexander, et al (2002), the fall of the once prestigious Chicago accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, came as a result of doing more of consulting than audit.
Just as was warned by a one time policy maker of Arthur Andersen, Gagel Mike, who was forced to retire at an earlier period in 1992, “…if you ever cheapened it (the audit) or give it away, you lost your birthright as a professional” (Alexander, 2002). 5 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 From all issues raised above, it can be seen that investors, shareholders and other persons in the finance stakeholders group, place very heavy reliance on the opinion of the auditors, hence, take their decisions based on these independent parties opinions. Also, third parties can successfully move against the professionals in case the reports attested to by these professionals were found to be misleading or misrepresenting.
A professional accountant has the liberty to expose him/herself to any danger but it should be noted that the danger is as a result of his/her action(s) and not necessarily a professional hazard. hazard. Economic Benefits of Auditing From the contributions of Walter and Williams (1992:16), economic benefits derivable from audit include: a) gaining and maintenance of access to capital markets especially by large companies; b) securing of loans and advances from banks and other institutional lenders with more favourable terms; c) granting of credits at lower interest rates by creditors and the acceptance of lower dividend or no dividend at all by investors so as to llow room for needed investments where necessary; d) improvement of company’s credibility; e) enhancement of employees’ honesty and efficiency since they are ever conscious of auditors’ presence; f) influencing of managements to be more truthful and forthright in their representations and although audit of financial statements is a statutory requirement, it indirectly affects the market value of companies; and g) it helps in ensuring the accuracy of information available in the financial market. These benefits suggest that audit has an effect on the activity(ies) of a company. We shall find out if these hold true in the companies selected for this study. Problems and Challenges of Agency Theory An agency relationship is created whenever ownership of a business is separated from its management. The concept of corporations has its roots in the eye opener case of Salomon Vs Salomon & Co (1876). Companies are different from proprietorships and partnerships in that, whereas, both proprietorships 6 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 nd partnerships are mostly and usually managed by some or all their owners, PLCs, companies, especially PLCs, have their management divorced from their owners, hence, creating principal-agent relationships. Quoting Jensen and Meckling (1976), Musa (2006:3) stated that conflict of interest between corporate insiders and outside investors are central to the analysis of modern corporations. This is because insiders, who control the assets of the companies, can use them in a way that is detrimental to the interest of outside investors. Assets could be diverted through outright theft, dilution of outside investors through insider dealings, expropriation through excessive salaries, etc.
Views of this nature had been put forward in earlier studies such as that of Shleifer and Vishny (1997). Augmenting this, Jensen (1986) was quoted by Musa (2006) that insiders can use corporate assets to pursue investment strategies that would yield them personal benefits at the expense of outside investors. In order to reduce or eliminate these and other agency problems, earlier studies such as that of Shleifer and Vishny (1997), La Porta, et al (1998), Zingale (2003), Gompers, et al (2003), Black, et al (2003), Sanda, et al (2004), Anderson, et al (2004), Musa (2006), among others, have placed so much of emphasis on effective corporate governance as the solution.
Using corporate governance variables which essentially are board composition, board size and power separation between board chairperson and CEO, these studies established that companies’ managers’ objectives can be aligned with the objectives of the paribus, shareholders vis-a-vis the companies themselves. This, for sure, ceteris paribus, will bring about sustainability, growth and development in companies. While not disagreeing with the views of these researchers, we want to tentatively posit that the alignment of these agents’ objectives with their principals’, which ultimately should lead to sustainability, growth and development of companies, is better ensured where professionals truly live up to their responsibilities. We shall conveniently take a final stand on this subsequently. Methodology This study is both historical and descriptive in nature.
Stratified random sampling method was used to select the companies used in the study. To do this, companies were classified as basic production, distribution and service. In the factbook of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (2006), one hundred and ninetyseven (197) companies are listed as registered companies. By classification of 7 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 the companies into service, production and distribution sectors, ninety-nine (99) companies are in the service sector, sixty-nine (69) are in the production sector and twenty-nine (29) are in the distribution sector. After considering their capital base, eleven (11) big companies were selected for our study.
Six(6) companies were selected from the service stratum for the fact that Nigeria economy is currently dominated by service industry; three(3) were selected from the production stratum; while two(2) were selected from the processing stratum. For their sizes, it is believed that the selected companies have the tendency to employ and utilize good auditing services, hence, will be good enough for our study. Data for this study was collected using primary data instruments: questionnaire and interview. Using purposive sampling, a total of fifty(50) questionnaires were distributed to the investing public alone. Ten(10) questionnaires were sent to each of the five(5) states chosen for this study.
The questionnaires were targeted at existing shareholders, and prospective investors. Our belief is that this number will be adequate for generalization for the fact that we were privileged to know that the shareholders held substantial shares in companies, and the prospective investors chosen show good interests in investments. Interviews were conducted, especially with audit firms (three in number) used for this study. Three bank managers, who gave us audience, were also interviewed. To analyse the data, descriptive and inferential statistical analysis techniques were employed. These are: Karl Pearson’s coefficient of correlation and percentages. Whereas percentages was used in analysis of some of the Segment i. ii.
Issues Confidence in Financial Statement (X) Confidence in Financial Statement tied to Audit (Y) Yes 16 13 No 5 3 Undecided 1 6 Source: Field Survey (2007) Table 1b: Summary of the analysis of table 1a issues for Pearson’s computations X ya = 16 x Y ya = 13 y XY yay = 13 xy x X2 ya2 = 16 x Y2 ya2 = 13 y Source: Computation of Field Survey (2007) result Analysis: Using Karl Pearson’s formula 8 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 This analysis indicates that there is a very strong link between auditing and shareholders’ confidence in financial statements prepared by companies (0. 74). That is, most shareholders relied on the financial statements for the fact that the statements were audited. Segment i. ii. iii.
Issues Subscription to shares (even if) not backed up with audit attested prospectus Auditi g has a strong impact on corporate growth and ng n development Auditors living up to publics expectations in Nigeria Yes 2 38 15 No 39 3 28 Undecided 2 2 0 Source: Field Survey (2007) From table 2 above, 91 percent of the respondents will be pleased to subscribe to the shares of any company provided its prospectus is attested to by auditors, not necessarily because they have good corporate governance structure in place. Also, 88 percent of the respondents are of the opinion that auditing has a strong impact on corporate growth and development. However, only 35 percent of the respondents opined that auditors are living up to expectations of the investing public in Nigeria.
Findings From the computations based on tables 1a and 1b, it is glaring that the confidence of shareholders in the financial statements presented to them by their agents (company managers), is increased by virtue of the attestation of auditors. Where finance stakeholders, especially shareholders, have confidence in a company’s financial statement, they are very likely to advance more money to the company whenever such is required for investments, especially in profitable ventures. This advancement of money can be by way of increasing the quantum of shares they already acquired, thereby introducing fresh capital, or opting not to receive dividend so as to allow the company to have enough reserves to be used for the new project(s), etc.
Adventure into reasonable and profitable ventures will likely aid the company to be more profitable, hence, grow, develop and get well sustained. 9 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 Based on the outcome of our statistical tests and respondents’ positions, we reject our null hypothesis and accept the alternative that the growth of any company is strongly linked with investing public’s confidence in its audited financial statements. Table 2(i & ii)’s responses also buttress our initial stand on the link between audit and company growth. This shows that with the assistance of audit, companies can easily obtain whatever amount they require from finance stakeholders.
This is well backed up with the responses from bank managers interviewed. As put by most of the respondents (bank managers), another major requirement for advancing loans of any sort, apart from collateral, to any company, is their audited financial statements. The position, as given by table 2(iii), presents a great challenge to auditors in Nigeria. 65 percent of our respondents posited that auditors in Nigeria are not living up to expectations. Can this be a major reason why Nigerians are not adequately responding to company shares as expected and/or why there are not many public companies as may be anticipated in a big country like Nigeria?
Some of the reasons put forward by these respondents for their position on this issue include: Indication of failure especially as seen in the aspect of bank distress in Nigeria, and the fact that there was not much to suggest that auditors had pre-warned or qualified their reports on these distressed institutions; contributions of some auditors in tax evasion practices of companies; failure of some audit firms to conduct themselves in line with the provision of CAMA (1990); and deviation from professional ethics due to poor economic conditions and the quest for financial gains. Concluding Remarks and Recommendations Auditing plays a very formidable role in the ability of companies to pool adequate financial resources needed for investments.
This is essentially appreciated in the way it increases the confidence of finance stakeholders in the financial reports prepared by the company agents. Companies that present good and hopeful report(s) will easily win the interest of finance stakeholders, hence, get required access to ‘investible’ funds. The stakeholders, however, do not just rely on the reports for the fact that they have been prepared by their agents or for the fact that good corporate governance structure had been put in place but for the fact that a reliable audit firm, respected by them, had attested to the validity and reliability of the ‘stunning reports’. 10 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 It is unfortunate that most finance stakeholders in Nigeria score audit firms low as at present.
The implication of this is that companies cannot benefit as much as they ought to, since the source of finance (finance stakeholders) is not too well disposed to their reports. With this, we can take a position that companies in Nigeria, on the average, are not yet attaining optimal level of finance, as it ought to be. Subject to any convincing proof to the contrary, we can confidently posit that there is a strong link between finance stakeholders’ current view of audit and low patronage to company shares and low degree of companies floating (formation) in Nigeria. Companies that are audited by trusted audit firms will always gain access to needed finance than the one audited by an audit firm not trusted by majority finance stakeholders.
Since it is glaring that the expectations of the investing public from audit are so high, professional bodies have a lot to do. Going by the responses of financial institutions and some investors, audit has positive impact on the market value of companies in the capital market. This is easily drawn from the fact that shares of such company are much sought after, in addition to the fact that financial lenders rely on it as an additional requirement for loans and advances to the companies. However, most companies in Nigeria are not yet benefiting from this, that is, most of the economic benefits derivable from audit are not yet tapped by Nigerian companies.
In line with the findings and conclusions of this study, the following recommendations are proffered: First, since it is the duty of shareholders, in the annual general meeting, to appoint external auditors, they should ensure that proven integrity, especially from track records, is their guiding principle in appointing auditors. This is very important for the fact that other finance stakeholders are also interested in who and what the company’s audit firm is. This should be taken as serious as, or more serious than, the way corporate governance is considered. Second, professional bodies must continuously hold seminars, workshops, etc, with all their members. In each of these gatherings, the need for upholding professional ethics, no matter the circumstance or situation any member finds him/herself, must always be given a better place. Strategies on how to align ethical issues with personal beliefs of members should also be utilized in these discussions.
The word of Gagel “… if you ever cheapened it or give it away, you lost your birthright as a professional” (Alexander, 2002) should be adopted as an anthem for professionals. Third, professional bodies should openly discipline any member found 11 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 wanting in his/her duty as a professional. The essence of open trial and conviction (if warranted) is, to serve as deterrent to other members, and show the investing public that the bodies have ‘zero tolerance’ to unethical conducts. This will surely increase the respect of the public to the professionals and the professional bodies. In the long run, it will positively affect the confidence of the public in audits and auditors.
Fourth, professional bodies should consciously organize seminars, workshops, symposiums, etc, to sensitise the investing public on their activities. In line with this, there should be room for ‘protocol free access’ by members of the investing public to the professional bodies. This will make it possible for any disgruntled member of the investing public to lay direct complaint(s) against any professional. This will not only increase their confidence in the professional bodies, but will also serve as a caveat to professionals themselves. Overall effect of this will positively affect audit and improve the companies’ performances. Fifth, professional bodies must constantly review issues on ethics and ethical conducts and make wide publications on their findings.
These publications must be made available to their members, all accounting departments in Nigerian universities and colleges and the general public at large. Lastly, we recommend researches into the reason(s) why some companies’ shares are ever active on the Nigerian Stock Exchange while others seem as if they are crawling. Also, there is the need to find out why investing crawling. public in Nigeria are not too keen about trading in companies shares when compared with their interests in bank shares. 12 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 References Alan, J. (1970). “Auditors Liabilities”, In, Olugbami, K. (1999), “The Role of Audit in Corporate Development”, unpublished B. Sc. project submitted to the department of Accounting, A. B. U. , Zaria.
Alexander, D. ; Burns, G. ; Manor, R. ; McRoberts, F. ; and Torriero, E. (2002). “The Fall of Tribune, Andersen: Greed Tarnished Golden Reputation”, Chicago Tribune, September 1, 2002, 1c. Anderson, R. ; Mansi, S. and Reeb, D. (2004). “Board Characteristics. Accounting Report Economics, Integrity and the Cost of Debt”, Journal of Accounting and Economics, 37, September, 11, 315-342. Black, B. ; Jang, H. and Kim, W. (2003). “Does Corporate Governance Affect Firm 327. Value? ”, Working Paper 327. Stanford Law School. Auditing, Carmichael, D. (1975). Perspectives in Auditing, Mc-Graw Hill Inc. , U. S. A. Gompers, P. ; Ishii, J. ; and Metrick, A. 2003). “Corporate Governance and Equity Prices”, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118, February, 107-155. Economics, Jensen, M. (1986). “Agency Cost of Free Cash Flow, Corporate Finance, and Takeovers”, Proceedings, American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings, 76, pp. 323-329, In Musa, F. (2006), “The Impact of Corporate Governance on the Performance and Value of Banks in Nigeria: An Agency Approach”, Nigerian Journal of Accounting Research, Research, 4, 1-15. Jensen, M. and Meckling, W. (1976). “Theory of the Firm: Managerial Behaviour, Economics, Agency Costs and Capital Structure”, Journal of Financial Economics, 3, pp. 305-360. In Musa, F. 2006), “The Impact of Corporate Governance on the Performance and Value of Banks in Nigeria: An Agency Approach”, Nigerian Research, Journal of Accounting Research, 4, 1-15. La Porta, R. ; Lopez-de-silanes, F. ; Shleifer, A. and Vishny, J. (2002). “Investor Protection Finance, and Corporate Valuation”, Journal of Finance, 57, 1147-1170. Musa, F. (2006). “The Impact of Corporate Governance on the Performance and Value of Banks in Nigeria: An Agency Approach”, Nigerian Journal of Accounting Research, Research, 4, 1-15. Auditing, Robertson, J. and Frederick, G. (1992). Auditing, 5th Ed. Business Pub. Inc. , Texas. Sanda, A. ; Mikailu, A. and Tukur, G. (2004). Director Shareholding, Board Size and Financial Performance of Firms in the Nigerian Stock Exchange”, Nigerian Research, Journal of Accounting Research, June, 2-34. Shleifer, A. and Vishny, R. (1997). “A Survey of Corporate Governance”, Journal of Finance, Finance, 52, 737-783. Auditing, Walter, G. and William, C. (1992). Modern Auditing, 5th Ed. , John Wiley & Sons, New York. Today, Woolf, E. (1986). Auditing Today, 3rd Ed. , Prentice Hall, London. Zingale, L. (2000). “In Search of New Foundations”, Journal of Finance, 55, 1623-1653. Finance, 13 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 ACCOUNTING AND NATION BUILDING By A. E. Okoye T Introduction: he changing environment has not only extended the boundaries of accounting but has created a problem in diversifying the scope of the subject.
For the purpose of this paper we adopt the definition of American Accounting Association (AAA) that defined accounting as the process of identifying, measuring and communicating economic information to permit informed judgement and decision by the user of the information. According to Mark (2000:95), since the mid-1970s, in U. S the number of new Ph. D’s in economics has held steady at approximately 750 to 800 per year. This means that the supply of new academic economists is quite high when compared to the number of new Ph. D’s in related disciplines like accounting. New Ph. D’s in accounting in the US for example, the total is not more than 75-100 per year. At this pace, it will take 20 years to fill current vacancies in accounting.
What is surprising is how slowly the supply of Ph. D’s from highquality doctoral programs in business has grown during recent years. Employment opportunities in the private sector are so attractive that talented accounting undergraduates, for example, do not find the Ph. D sufficiently rewarding to encourage them to pursue advanced degrees. This might explain the failure of accounting students to pursue advanced degrees. The Nigerian situation in accounting research is dangerously low. This paper attempts to highlight certain critical issues that influence the quality of the accounting information available to decision-makers at both micro and macro economic levels of a nation.
The issues covered include: i Nature of Accounting Information ii Historical antecedents of Accounting and civilization iii International Accounting issues iv Consequences of Accounting diversity v Benefits of Harmonization vi Forensic Accounting 14 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 vii Environmental Accounting viii Human Resource Accounting ix Accounting Best Practices The main objective of this paper is to create awareness among Accountants (information preparers) and interest groups (information users) on various issues that relate to Accounting as a discipline. The readers will also see this paper as a clarion call to help and improve the quality of Accounting information in whatever decision-making capacity they are operating.
Nature of Accounting Information Accounting generates three basic types of information namely scorekeep/stewardships information, attention directing information and problem solving score-keeping information provided by financial accounting relates to the statutory financial statement which must be prepared in most cases on annual basis. Most stakeholders are interested in this set of information because it highlights the profit/loss for the period and the Balance sheet which show the structure of organization assets and liabilities. Most accountants rigidly hold on the financial Accounting because they erroneously see it as the only professional section of accounting. There is a fusion between AttentionDirecting and Problem-solving information.
While the Attention-directing is mainly supplied by cost Accounting, problem-solving information is supplied by management accounting. Attention- directing and problem solving information relate to issues of planning, control and decision making for short and long range operations. Many operative decision-making processes rely on such information like budgeting, variance analysis, capital investment appraisal, cost determination, contract costing and a lot of other information Accountants need to de-emphasis on the score-keeping information and pay more attention on the attention-directing and problem-solving information required for day to day decision making by management.
Though score-keeping or steward accounting is a statutory requirement Accountants need to understand the short-comings of financial accounting information. Limitations of Financial Accounting: Financial Accounting is a statutory requirement and the format and disclosures are well spelt out by Companies and Allied Matters Act of 1990 and Statement of Accounting Standard (SAS I) as pronounced by Nigerian Accounting Standard Board (NASB). Though the nature and contents of 15 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 statutory financial statements are useful, there are many limitations which mitigate against its usefulness. (i) The statements are published once a year and mainly at the end of the financial year.
This means that an interested party must wait for twelve calendar months before receiving the information required to evaluate the managerial performance for the period. (ii) The statutory requirement of Financial Statements is historical in nature (Historical Cost Accounting HCA). This means that the statements do not show any thing about the future of the organization except where analysts start to interpret the figures in forms of ratios, percentages and trends. (iii) Since monetary values are placed on items, it is impossible to reflect the value of staff, customer or competitive strength of the organization compared with others in the same industry in a set of published Financial Statement. (iv) In Nigeria as at today, there is no standard method of taking care of inflation in our financial statements.
This means that most Assets and Liabilities are either over-valued or under-valued in the financial statement which is misleading to decision-makers. (v) Auditing which is designed to give an independent view of the financial statements is based on random sampling which means that the audit work is not detailed enough to highlight all the weaknesses in the financial statement. Lapses of the management team cannot be highlighted in the financial report such as favouritism, marginalization, poor working capital management etc. This explains why many companies with unqualified audit reports collapse soon after huge profit figures have been reflected in their financial statements (Okoye, 2000:3).
Historical Perspectives of Accounting Accounting and civilization have slim boundaries in terms of history, and a separation of one from the other may not be successful without inflicting injury on the other. According to Garry (1999) “Accounting at any point in time and place can represent the level of civilization then and there”. Edward in his work, looked at accounting history from three phases namely; the Record Keeping phase the ancient practice the Bookkeeping Phase (Italian methods) and the Accounting phase (the modern method) (Edward, 16 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 1960:447). In similar vain, Alexandra (2002) highlighted accounting developments in Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and Rome. Mesopotamia (3500BC-2000BC): About 3500BC evidence of record keeping could (3500BC-2000BC): be traced in Babylonia and Syria.
As it is reported that the oldest known records of commerce were kept in the Mesopotamia valley. Prosperous farmers from Assyrian, Chaldean-Babylonian and Symerian were reported to have triggered businesses and small industries giving rise to more than one banking firm in Mesopotamia, employing standard measures of gold and silver and extending credit for some transactions. Egypt: The Egyptian accounting system was similar to those in Mesopotamia. Egypt: The scribes occupy key position in the Egyptian government administration, as evidenced in the special qualification of an Egyptian’s scribe, which include skill in reading, writing, arithmetic and proficiency in wording the administrative formulas among others.
China: Accounting in ancient China was used as a means of evaluating the China: efficiency of government programmes and the civil servants who administered them. This form of accounting is similar to performance measurement or management accounting of today. It was reported that the Chinese accounting achieved a reasonable level of sophistication during the Chao Dynasty of 1122256 BC, and was only improved upon after the introduction of the double entry system. Rome: Accounting historian, James Don Edwards reported that record keeping Rome: and bookkeeping under the Roman Republic reached higher degree of perfection and accuracy than those of the Babylonians and Egyptians (Edwards 1960:450).
The accounting system in ancient Rome evolved from records traditionally kept by the heads of families, where records of household receipts and payments were kept in an “Adversarial” (day book) and monthly postings made to a “codex “codex accepti et expensi” (cash book). The importance of this household or family expensi” records and accounts was for the purpose of submitting regular statements of assets and liabilities as required by law, which form the basis of taxation and determination of civil rights. The characteristics of the Roman Accounting innovations include an elaborate system of checks and balances for government 17 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 receipts and disbursements by the ‘quaestors’, (managers of the treasury and supervisors of government books) and the use of an annual budget to coordinate and control government fiscal and monetary policies.
Factors Shaping Accounting Development The development and practice of accounting has been influenced a great deal by several factors which constitute the reason for diversity in the practice and reporting in accounting. Some of these factors according to Germon and Meek (2001), are External Finance, Legal System, Political and Economic ties with other countries and level of inflation as discussed below: Finance: External Finance: The relationship between a business enterprise and providers of business capital changes quite drastically when new capital is secured in international financial markets. Then the information demands of both domestic and international sources of finance have to be satisfied, which typically means going beyond national expectations and customs in providing financial reports.
System: Legal System: The accounting system of some countries, are regulated by the national law, which may be at variance with the international accounting standard. In most code law countries, accounting principles are national laws. The legal system of the country is what regulates the practice and accounting reporting format of such countries, which is mainly aimed at determining how much income tax a company owes the government. This type of accounting procedure is only favorable to the government and not other stakeholders, leading to diversities on the international accounting scene. Countries: Political and Economic Ties with other Countries: The political development of a country will determine the development of accounting in the country as well.
Accounting technology is imported and exported just as political systems and ideologies are, and countries have similar accounting for this reason. The Untied States has influenced accounting in Canada due to geographic proximity and close economic ties and because a number of Canadian companies routinely sell shares of common stock or borrow money in the United States. Almost every former British colony and Commonwealth countries which include Botswana, Gambia, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Malaysia, Antigua, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Malawi, Zambia and Pakistan has an accounting profession and 18 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 financial accounting practices patterned after the U. K. model.
Former colonies of France and Germany have been influenced by their “mother countries”. The coming together of various countries, in form of clusters has aided diversities of accounting on the international scene. Inflation: Level of Inflation: The level of inflation which is also known as the price level changes is a major factor that has caused diversities in the practice and reporting of accounting on the international scene. Some countries recognize the impact of inflation in the preparation of their financial reports. Countries like Argentina, Brazil, Mexico have their financial reports prepared using the price level changes method, instead of the historical cost principle.
International Accounting Issues The Accounting model is a type of model that classifies accounting practice of various countries into different categories. Various approaches have been used by various writers, but for the purpose of this study, accounting models based on certain distinguishing features of accounting will be used. Accounting, according to Gernon/Meek (2001), is grouped into three models based on certain distinguishing features of accounting, with close identification of national patterns that conform to the identified features, such as Fair Presentation model, Legal compliance model and Inflation adjusted model as discussed below: Model: i.
The Fair Presentation/Full Disclosure Model: This model of accounting is oriented toward the decision needs of external investors. Under this model, financial statements enable investors to judge managerial performance and to predict future cash flows and profitability. Under this model, financial statements are said to represent a fair picture of the company’s financial position. This is also the approach adopted by the International Accounting Standards Committee. Nigeria, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and Singapore are examples of countries under this classification. Model: ii. The Legal Compliance Model: This is also called the continental model.
This type of accounting model is designed to satisfy government imposed requirements as computing income taxes or demonstrating compliance with the national government’s macroeconomic plan. The demand for public disclosure is low in legal compliance model of accounting. 19 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 iii. The Inflation-Adjusted Model: This model is an addition to one or two of the above models, which incorporates recognition of inflation in the presentation of its financial statement. Some countries with this type of accounting model in addition to some of the features of the fair presentation model give cognizance to the level of inflation, while some in addition to the legal compliance model give recognition to inflation. Under this model, financial statements are not prepared based on historical cost.
Countries also abandon inflation adjustments once inflation is tamed e. g. a recent occurrence in Argentina and Brazil. Consequences Of Accounting Diversity Due to the diversities of accounting practices and reporting on the international scene, many consequences are inherent, which may be of adverse effect to the users of accounting reports and the credibility of the financial statements across the nations. According to Ezejelue (2001) “the problems created by the divergences in accounting standards, particularly in furthering global integration of world economies, are so enormous that the pressure for global accounting harmonization is mounting”.
Financial statements of companies from different countries are not comparable, which may inherently delay decision making at various levels. Some of the consequences on the following are as stated below: Corporate Management: Managers of multinational companies, make use of financial reports from various countries across the globe, which makes it difficult for them to compare growth and make prompt decisions, because of the diversities of accounting standard and regulatory bodies on the international scene. Investors: Investors face a lot of challenges, trying to make effective decision, using financial statements from different companies in different countries of the world, due to the fact that financial statements cannot be compared across countries.
According to Gernon & Meek (2001) if investors, analysts, and underwriters experience difficulties with GAAP diversity, financial markets are not as efficient as they could be and therefore returns to investors are less than they ought to be. This is a powerful indictment of GAAP diversity. 20 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 Stock Markets and Regulators: The stock market does two things, which include the protection of investors against risk and market quality. For these two objectives to be achieved there is need for accurate and correct disclosure of information from the listed companies, so that judgment can be drawn from the available information.
Therefore if the information available is not consistent and sufficient, then these twin objectives cannot be achieved, which will be to the detriment of the stock market and regulators. Harmonization and Standardization are closely related but different. In the word of Deegan (2004:192), “harmonization does not mean absolute standardization”. Harmonization as defined above relates to the agreement of things, standardization on the other hand ‘implies making something to conform to a fixed standard’ (Ezejelue 2004:320). It is ‘a process that attempts to make accounting standards released by different countries as similar as possible’ (Deegan 2004:192). It can therefore be inferred that standardization facilitates harmonization.
The reported divergences in national accounting policies and practices are so enormous that they could constitute a cog in the wheel of further advancement in bilateral, regional and global trade liberation, investments, and financial and capital flows, as well as in strengthening multilateral systems to foster deeper economic integration among the world’s economies. Benefits of Harmonization Specifically, international accounting harmonization will bring about the following benefits; i) Increase financial and capital flows with lower cost of capital. ii) Enhanced internationalization and integration, through diversification of Global businesses. iii) Reconciliation of financial statements of multinational companies (MNCs) will be easy due to ‘standardization’ and or ‘harmonization’. v) Cross-border analysis of financial information will be an easy task due to the agreeability and comparability of financial statements, hence increased cross border investment. v) The tendency to reduce operational cost of MNCs competition among the accounting and auditing firms (Ezejelue, 2004:327). 21 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 Other benefits of international accounting and auditing standards are listed below: i) Greater international comparability of financial reports. ii) A more level playing field, engendering cross-border mergers and acquisition, as well as cross-border capital flows. iii) Improved global business competition. iv) Assistance to developing countries. v) Reduce bookkeeping cost and allow more efficient preparation of financial statements. i) Reconciliation of adversarial interest between the preparers and users of financial statements. vii) More efficient analyses and use of financial statement and hence increase the credibility of the entire financial reporting system. A Forensic Accountant as Expert Witness/Consultant A forensic accountant is one who has mastered the science of accounting and is able to assist lawyers and the courts to understand and apply accounting issues to the law and to disputed matters. Forensic accounting experts have extensive experience in investigations to determine solutions to disputed accounting matters, to write expert reports on their investigation, and to appear in court as expert witnesses.
The expert may be hired solely as a consultant to an attorney and his client during litigation, or as one who provides opinion evidence as an expert. Expert witness accounting can be somewhat like politics. While the expert witness accountant must be independent of the parties to the dispute, he may conclude from the facts, and his interpretation of them, that his engaging attorney is correct and that the opposition is wrong. If he can demonstrate the proof of his conclusions, he is a strong expert witness (Zeph Telpner & Micheal Mostek 2003:2). Accounting often baffles non-accountants, and, in its advanced theory, it also can baffle long-time accountants.
Even the most skillful and experienced lawyer can misunderstand what the accountant is telling him. The accountant seems to speak in a different language. Even lawyers who are also certified public accountants (CPAs) but have not practiced public accounting, or have minimal accounting experience, often misunderstand accountants. Of course, judges and juries are not immune to confusion relative to accounting. The attorney must help the accounting expert witness to state his conclusions in 22 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 terms that the attorney, the judge and the jury can understand. Consultant The role of a forensic accountant as a consultant is not limited to litigation support or expert witnessing.
A forensic accountant might be hired to review and strengthen internal controls, to determine if assets are missing, or to discover if tax laws or accounting laws, rules have been applied correctly to company transactions. Forensic accountants are often hired to determine if an embezzlement has occurred or, if so, how much is missing and how it was d Fraud Auditing, Forensic Accounting and Financial Auditing In the lexicon of accounting, terms such as fraud auditing, forensic accounting, investigative accounting, litigation support and valuation analysis are not clearly defined. By today’s usage, the broadest term is litigation support, which incorporates the other four terms.
But traditional accountants still feel some distinctions apply between fraud auditing and forensic accounting. Fraud auditing, they say, involves a proactive approach and methodology to discern fraud; that is, one audits for evidence of fraud. The purpose is to detect fraud. Forensic accountants, on the other hand, are called in after evidence or suspicion of fraud has surfaced through an allegation, complaint, or discovery. Financial auditing generally is not intended to search for fraud but to attests that financial statements are presented fairly. Movements are afoot to compel financial auditors to design their audits in such a way that fraud can be discerned and criminal acts can be discovered.
But at this writing no law has been passed to that effect, nor have professional societies included those obligations as a matter of professional diligence (Jach Bologna & Robert Lindquist 1995:5). Human Resource Accounting (HRA) HRA can be defined as the measured quantification of human organizational inputs such as recruiting, training, experience and commitment. The objective of HRA is not just the recognition of the value of all resources used or contributed by the firm, but it also includes the improvement of the management of human resources so that the quantity and quality of goods and services are increased. The basic objective underlying HRA is to facilitate the effective and efficient management of human resources. 23
The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 Significance of HRA Though HRA is primarily to be used as a managerial tool, it has significant uses for present and potential investors and other users of financial statement. HRA is used for both internal and external purposes. Internal Purposes: HRA facilitates decision making processes in the following Purposes: areas: i Direct recruitment vs promotion ii Transfer vs retention iii Retrenchment vs retention iv Decision on relocating plants, closing down existing units, developing overseas subsidiaries External Purposes: i It helps potential investors on making long-term decisions to invest or not. i It provides a more realistic view of the rate of return of human resources employed. iii It helps to look into the problem of training costs and benefits, and turnover. Important Factors in developing HRA in an organization i Before introducing HRA in an organization, the organizational climate must support the introduction. ii Senior management must have strong support of the HRA philosophy. i The organization must be prepared to make a substantial commitment of time and effort to develop the HRA. iii There must be staff who are interested and knowledgeable in HRA or who are willing to learn it. Why is HRA Receiving attention in Recent time? The recognition of Human Resources as an Asset. ii The recognition that effectiveness of the assets rely on HRA. iii It constitutes over 50% of the total asset of any organization. Measurement of Human Resources and their Appraisal 24 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 HRA focuses on two issues namely: i How human resource asset should be valued e. g should historical cost or replacement value or present value be used; ii The implications of capitalized human resources e. g. should it be amortized? What are the tax implications on human resource amortization? What are the implications of HRA on internal and external auditing, once they are recorded?
Once it is accepted that human resources are assets, the question of measuring the cost of the asset arises. The monetary approaches to measurement of human assets are broadly based either on cost or economic value. The cost approaches involves computation of the cost of human resources to the organization. The cost are capitalized and amortized over useful life of the asset. Basically, the cost approaches are: i The Historical Cost Approach ii The Replacement Cost Approach iii The Opportunity Cost Approach Socio-economic Accounting/Environmental Accounting Socio-economic accounting aims at measurement and reporting “the impact of exchanges between a firm and its social environment”.
The objective of socio-economic accounting “is to internalize the social costs and benefits to determine a more relevant and exhaustive result that represents the socioeconomic profit of a firm” (Porwal, 2001:446) Measurement and reporting of the social performance of profit-oriented firms forms the core of “Corporate Social Performance” (CSP). The American National Association of Accountants’ (NAA) committee on Accounting for Corporate Social Performance identified four major areas of social performance: i) Community Development: This includes socially oriented activities that are Development: primarily of benefit to the general public, e. g. eneral corporate philanthropy, housing construction, financing of health services and volunteer activities among employees, food programmes, and community planning and improvement. ii) Human Resources: This includes social performance directed towards the wellResources: being of employees, e. g. improvement of employment practices, training programmes, working conditions, promotion policies and provision of job enrichment schemes and employee benefits. 25 The Journal of Accounting Vol. 1 No. 1 March, 2009 iii) Physical Resources and Environmental Contributions: Activities directed towards alleviating or preventing environmental deterioration (pollution), e. g. ir, water, noise pollution, conservation of scare resources, and the disposal of solid waste are included in this area. iv) Product or Service Contributions: This area includes consumerism, product quality, packaging, advertising, warranty provisions, and product safety. Social Accounting And Social Auditing: The NAA Committee defined Social Accounting as “the identification, measurement, monitoring and reporting of the social and economic effects of an institution on society… It is intended for both internal managerial and external accountability purposes, and is an outgrowth of changing values that have led society to redefine its notion of a corporation’s social responsibility.
The accountants would do well to recognize that cost of operating a business is something more than what is being disclosed in public accounts, e. g. , pollution of environment (noise, water, air), spread of diseases, dislocation of inhabitants of a locality, local housing and transport problems, closure of cottage industries, social tensions and several other social evils. This is on the liability side. What it does: providing roads, schools and colleges, dispensaries, railway lines, employment, etc is the asset side. Hence, instead of income, we should measure benefit-cos