Accounting is a profession used to make financial and business decisions. Billions of dollars exchange hands every day, in millions of separate business transactions. These are recorded and reported on using a comprehensive set of guidelines, referred to as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Brief History of Accounting
Accounting was born before writing or numbers existed, some 10,000 years ago, in the area known as Mesopotamia, later Persia, and today the countries of Iran and Iraq. This area contains the Tigris Euphrates river valley, a large fertile area 10,000 years ago with a large thriving population and active trading between towns and cities up and down the two rivers. Writing and numbers would be not be invented for about another 5,000 years. And what happens next will directly lead to the invention of both writing and number systems. At that time, merchants faced many of the same problems businesses face today. They had to ship their merchandise up and down the rivers, and that meant trusting a boatman with their goods. Unfortunately, not all boatmen were honest, and disagreements often arose about how much was shipped versus what was received at the other end. It is hard for us today to imagine a world without writing and numbers. Try to imagine yourself in their position.... what would you do? To deal with the problem, merchants came up with an ingenious plan. They made small clay tokens, in various shapes and with various markings, to indicate different products. One would mean a basket of grain, another would mean a pot of oil, etc. They had over 200 such tokens to indicate a large variety of common goods, including food, leather, clothing, utensils, tools, jewelry, etc. Before shipping their goods, a merchant would take one token for each item in the shipment, and encase the tokens in a ball of clay, called a "bollae" (pronounced "bowl-eye") - meaning ball. The ball would be dried in the sun, given to the boatman, and then broken by the buyer on the other end of the transaction. The buyer would match the tokens with the items in the shipment, to verify that everything sent was accounted for. This is the function of protection of assets, and is a major function of all modern accounting systems. It was important 10,000 years ago and is just as important now. Today we see merchants doing the same thing as their counterparts 10 millennia ago - today they get a bill of lading - a listing of the merchandise entrusted to a shipper. The system of using bollae continued for almost 5,000 years, all before the invention of writing or numbers. One day, probably by accident, a wet clay bollae was rolled over a loose token, laying on the ground. The impression of the token was left in the wet clay. Merchants began pressing the tokens on the outside of the bollae, in addition to putting the tokens inside the ball. Eventually they would press tokens into a flat piece of clay, leaving an impression for each item. Remember, they didn't have numbers yet, so they would press a token into the clay for each individual item. Probably by accident one day the right token couldn't be found, and someone used a stick or other object to make the right marks in the soft clay tablet. And writing was born.... New symbols were soon created representing multiple items, and suddenly both writing and number systems were invented. The last phase of this remarkable process took about 500 years, but once writing was invented, it caught on like wildfire, and was the most popular thing anyone had ever seen. People were so much in love with writing they did it every chance they could. We have a huge amount of archaeological evidence to support this notion. Thousands of small clay tablets still survive today. A common example: a worker sent his boss a note saying he would be late for work that day because he had chores to do. He would hire a scribe to write the tablet (only a few people could read or write), and hire a child to carry the note to his boss. They sent notes like we use the phone today, and they loved it. They wrote for the sheer joy of it - the ability to communicate at a distance. Written accounting records are some of the oldest writings that have survived until today, and they date back to circa 3300-3200 BC. These early records were simple single-entry listings of wages paid, temple assets, taxes and tributes to the king or Pharaoh. This simple system was used until the mid-1400s, and a period known as the Renaissance. The ancient Egyptian scribe (seated on the left) prepared his accounts on papyrus with a calamus. The accompanying text reads "Minute care is not only taken in the case of large amounts, but even the smallest quantities of corn or dates are conscientiously entered." In ancient Egypt, the accountants were literally bean-counters. They also counted rice, beer, and everything else. Ancient Egyptians were paid in "kind" - they had not invented money yet so workers were paid with food, beer, clothing, etc. (Everyone drank beer back then, because it was more sanitary than the water. The alcohol content was very low, because they used a short brewing process.) It is interesting to note that the Mediterranean and European nations had no concept of the number zero until the middle ages. They learned the concept of zero from Middle Eastern mathematicians, who also knew about the movements of the stars and planets, and had figured out the earth was round, and revolved around the sun in an orbit, etc. It took the Europeans another 500 years to figure that out, largely because those concepts were contrary to views held by the Roman Catholic church at the time. It's also hard to do math using Roman numerals, so their math skills were limited until they started using Arabic numbers. c. 8500 BC
Merchants begin to use bollae and tokens to protect shipments c. 3500 BC
Making marks onto wet clay replaces use of bolla, gives rise to writing and number systems c. 3000 BC
Writing and number systems fully developed
c. Late 1400s
Luca Pacioli documents double entry accounting
Luca Pacioli: Father of Modern Accounting
By the time Christopher Columbus was trying to sail west, a new form of accounting was in use by merchants in Venice . Luca Pacioli (pot-chee-O-lee) set down in writing for the first time a description of the double-entry system of accounting, which we still use today in much the same form. Although he didn't actually invent the system he is called "the father of accounting" for his contributions and for documenting the system in his fifth book on mathematics Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita (Everything About Arithmetic, Geometry and Proportion). Written as a digest and guide to existing mathematical knowledge, bookkeeping was only one of five topics covered. The Summa's 36 short chapters on bookkeeping, entitled De Computis et Scripturis (Of Reckonings and Writings) were added "in order that the subjects of the most gracious Duke of Urbino may have complete instructions in the conduct of business," and to "give the trader without delay information as to his assets and liabilities" (All quotes from the translation by J.B. Geijsbeek, Ancient Double Entry Bookkeeping: Lucas Pacioli's Treatise, 1914). Luca Pacioli was a remarkable man. He was one of the best mathematicians of his time, and was a close friend of Leonardo DaVinci. They collaborated on many projects. Pacioli helped DaVinci lay out his painting, The Last Supper, with mathematical precision. And Leonardo illustrated Luca's books on mathematics and accounting. History is full of instances of collaboration between these two great thinkers and Renaissance men. Modern accounting follows the same principles set down by Luca Pacioli over 500 years ago. However, today it is a highly organized profession, with a complex set of rules for the fair disclosure and presentation of information in financial statements. Every day trillions of dollars in transactions are recorded by business, government and financial institutions world-wide. They all follow the same general set of rules.
DEVELOPMENT OF ACCOUNTING PRACTICE IN NIGERIA
The history of accounting in Nigeria can be traced prior to the establishment of professional accounting bodies in the country. The first indigenous professional accounting body in Nigeria is the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), which was established in 1965 by an act of parliament. ICAN was and is still responsible for the training and certification of professional accountants in Nigeria. The Institute is also saddled with the responsibility of issuing out guidelines on the practice of accounting in Nigeria. It also participates in the regulation of general accounting practice in Nigeria. In 1993, however, another professional accounting body was formed via a Decree. The body is called Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN). The association is also responsible for ensuring the best practices in the profession and also participates in the general regulation of accounting practice in Nigeria.
The two recognized accounting bodies in Nigeria, ICAN and ANAN, in most cases do not work together. They spend much time arguing on unnecessary issues relating to superiority and who is legally responsible for what and who is not (Uche, 2002). The level of cohesion between the two bodies is weak though it is improving over the recent years. This cannot be said about other professional accounting bodies in the United Kingdom, United States, and other western countries. Although there seem to be a feel of inferiority and weakness on the part of later established professional accounting bodies relative to the already established ones globally, those bodies work expertly and tirelessly to achieve full status and recognition. They do not unnecessarily attack, but apply efficient and effective strategies to realize their dreams. They fight for the common good of the profession and expose their efforts to the public in order to gain appreciation and confidence. COLLABORATION OF ACCOUNTING THEORETICIANS AND ACCOUNTANTS IN PRACTICE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PROFESSION IN NIGERIA Academic world and practical world are complementary for each other. This is true for every discipline. Scientific theories have been basis for invention of various equipments which are useful in day to day world. In the accountancy profession, educational institutions and practicing accountants should develop a cohesive relationship aimed at developing ideas and improving best practice (Goddard, 2002). Academic research provides important inputs to the field of accounting for corporate, government and other businesses’ applications. The history of accounting clearly reflects how academic research can generate improvement in management systems, corporate and non-corporate financial reporting and its managerial uses. Nowadays totally and relatively new concepts are evolving. These new concepts are gaining importance. Some of them include accounting for branding, human resource auditing, forensic accounting, environmental accounting, social responsibility accounting, human resource accounting, etc. These concepts are majorly academic concepts developed for the purpose of meeting up with the human civilization and responding to practical issues (Suki, 2006). These prove that academic world is trying to fulfill the gap between theory and practice; and to improve the best practices in accounting. Accountants in practice are accountants licensed by a recognized professional accounting body on the basis of educational background, a rigorous certification examination, and in most jurisdictions, relevant practical work experience (Bloom and Myring, 2008). These accountants more often come into contact with some practical accounting problems and after identifying them pushed to the academic world for necessary research, suggestion and recommendation. It is the academic accountants’ findings that usually form the basis of further discussions for possible issuance of an accounting standard, guideline or principle. The issue of full involvement of the academic accountants in the regulation of accounting and its practice should be quickly addressed. In Nigeria, representation of accounting profession is almost limited to the accountants in practice only. Representations in the Nigerian Accounting standards Board (NASB) showed that all recognized accounting bodies in Nigeria are given at least one representative each; while the academic accountants are left with only one representative. The only representation of academic accountants in the NASB is one representative from the defunct Nigerian Association of Accounting Teachers (NATA), which now metamorphoses into Nigerian Accounting Association (NAA). Furthermore, the issues of the federal appointment of accounting posts are done with the accountants in practice almost always the favorites. Political positions like Accountant-General at both federal and state levels, minister of finance, commissioner are almost restricted to the accountants in practice. Though these positions require some practical experiences, the academic accountants are better equipped for the job. They are vast in the area of accounting both theory and practice. They are not corrupted by the system and could devise better ways of executing their jobs effectively and efficiently. REFERENCES AND OTHER RELEVANT MATERIALS
Backer, M. (1966), Modern Accounting Theory. Washington: JPE Printers Inc. Bloom, R. and Myring, M. (2008), Charting the Future of the Accounting Profession: Recruiting and Retaining the Next Generation. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Briloff, A. J. (1972), Unaccountable Accounting. Glasgow: Prentice Hall.
Chatfield, M. (1977), A History of Accounting Thought. Dundee: Dundee University Press.
Edwards, J. D. (1960), History of Public Accounting in the United States. New York: Mike-Allen Inc.
El-Omari, S. & Saboly, M. (2005), "Emergence d’une Profession comptable Liberale: Le Cas du Maroc”, Economic History. Paris: EconWPA. Goddard, A. (2002), “Development of the accounting profession and practices in the public sector - A Hegemonic Analysis”. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 15, (5), 655-688. Goldberg, L. and Hill, V. R. (1966), The Elements of Accounting, 3rd Edition. Edinburgh: Jossey Bass. Lernout, S. and Hauspie, B. (2004), The Columbia Encyclopedia©, Sixth Edition. Bogotá: Columbia University Press. Nash, A. H. S. (1954), English Accountancy 1800–1954. London: Wiley Ltd. Palmer, R. E. (1977), The Accounting Profession: Current Development and Future Implications. United States: Touche Ross & Co.