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Putting the f-word into accounting

Wintec tutor Ahmed Saleh is making accounting fun

When did learning accounting become fun? When it involves a game of treasure hunt, a foray into forensic accounting and the opportunity to develop cutting edge fraud detection software.

Wintec tutor Ahmed Saleh is putting the f-word into accounting, a subject that’s not all fun and games although he believes there’s nothing like a treasure hunt with a trick prize at the end to demonstrate that things aren’t always what they seem.

"The game teaches us how to collect evidence, read into clues and look beyond the obvious, work in groups, utilise each other’s strengths and celebrate our wins.” he says.

The students develop expectations when the prize is discovered, it appears to be a bottle of wine. Although it's not wine, but trickery with fruit juice.

Ahmed who is himself finalising a Phd in Forensics Accounting and has worked as an auditor, teaches the Auditing and Assurance paper at Wintec,  a paper he says is known for being ‘hard’. This year’s students are working with Vigilance, a New Zealand based IT company that develops fraud prevention and detection software. The relationship has grown from a guest lecture to an opportunity for the students to work with the company and they are contributing to the development of Vigilance’s fraud software.

The lead-in to working on fraud software began with an understanding of the evolving role of auditors to meet expectations.

“People can have high expectations that it is an auditor’s duty to prevent or detect fraud” says Ahmed. "And auditors believe they are not expected to, and cannot, reduce fraud risk to zero and therefore cannot obtain absolute assurance that financial statements are free from fraud or error”.

“There is a gap between society’s expectations of auditors and auditors’ performance. Identifying and understanding the auditing gaps and the nuances of this evolving role are critical for our students to go out into a world where they will expect the unexpected and develop solutions."

Vigilance CEO Sam MacGeorge says the experience of working with the Wintec students evolved the project from a number of standpoints.

“Being able to explore some of the challenges and risks facing business today with Ahmed and his students gave us some valuable insights. It was a great experience for both parties and we’re now using their input to help fight the growing threat of accounting fraud.”

"By working with Vigilance we are bringing the outside world in," says Ahmed.

“This is a real-world project that plays to the strengths these students are developing by allowing them to critique, based on the theories they are discussing on this course.”

Ahmed’s teaching skills were recently acknowledged by his peers when he won the Wintec Teaching and Learning Award in Wintec’s 2017 Annual Staff Awards.

Image: Wintec tutor Ahmed Saleh (top right) encourages his students to look beyond the obvious, expect the unexpected and develop solutions.