• Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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Accountants looking for trouble


Unlike the rest of the world, those chartered accountants who were gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Rome to hear the cryptic announcement “Habemus Papam” (We have a Pope) on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 insisted that Pope Benedict XVI must prepare proper handing-over note to his successor Pope Francis I. The cerebral Benedict (still Holy Father) duly obliged. It was written in flawless New Testament Greek. I will not even attempt a full translation. The opening paragraph was as follows:

“My accountants (and my brothers and sisters from Nigeria) have repeatedly told me: ‘Watch your back!’ I was somewhat intrigued and proceeded to ask the protesting chartered accountants and ‘Seventy Senior Citizens’ from Nigeria what it was all about. Their response: ‘Nothing sinister at all. All we wanted to ensure was continuity as a fundamental strategy. We wanted Pope Benedict to dance into glory.’ Mio senijo. (Why will I not dance? The Almighty has given me so much joy.)”

Without any anxieties about what his successor will do or not do, two things for which we shall forever be grateful to the Holy Father are: restoration of the Latin Mass and (ii) the doctrine of Perpetual Adoration to God.

In England, accountants nearly started a revolt by the army when the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond issued the following statement: “The Ministry of Defence, after taking advice from the four largest accounting firms, is implementing a new car policy, under which most cars are pooled and entitlements to use them are reduced. The new car policy is in line with a number of reductions in entitlements for senior officers and officials which have been implemented since 2010 to achieve greater value for the taxpayer. Work continues to make sure all parts of the organisation contribute to the essential challenge of budget discipline upon which chartered accountants insist.”

It took the prompt intervention of second most senior officer in the army, Adrian Bradshaw, commander to Land Forces, to calm jittery nerves. Some even feared that a regime change was imminent! On Sky News and BBC, the general blamed the misunderstanding on accountants: “Official cars are being withdrawn for three-star generals and below. The Inland Revenue and the accountants have decided that the use of such cars by officers commuting to and from work was a taxable perk. I fully appreciate that this will be unwelcome news for some, and that it will involve inconvenience and adjustment to current practices. Clearly, we would not wish to be in this position if we could have avoided it. The new policy is designed to protect individual officers from having personally to meet the individual tax liability accrued by using allocated cars and the use of staff cars for personal commuting, upon which the HMRC (His Majesty’s Royal Communication) has now insisted. In addition, it reflects the reality of increased external scrutiny and comment by chartered accountants on what may be interpreted as a perk.”

On Al Jazeera television, Colonel Kamp, who promptly resigned as commanding officer of British forces in Afghanistan, was livid: “It’s all hogwash. Complete nonsense. This is yet another example of the politics of envy of chartered accountants. These measures are just as likely to cost the Ministry of Defence money as make savings and will reduce efficiency. Army officers give so much both in the UK and in the battlefield. At the same time, their benefits are progressively eroded, with virtually every so-called ‘perk’ snatched away by jealous chartered accountants and their fellow conspirators in the bureaucracy. Regardless, I am not advocating regime change. It is the auditors and accountants we should line up.”

The motto of Britain’s foremost military academy, Sandhurst, is “Honour above all else”. And I think it was Winston Churchill who declared during the Second World War: “You have to shoot a general every now and again – just to teach the others a lesson.” The enraged colonel now insists: “We have to shoot a chartered accountant every now and again to teach the others a lesson they will never forget.”

Ironically, it was the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI who intervened: “I give you my peace. The peace of the Lord be unto you all. I commend the vineyard of the Lord to you – not the battlefield already soaked with blood.”

In his handing-over note, Pope Benedict XVI urged his successor to keep an eye (and an ear) on what is going on in Zimboda as exemplified by breaking news on CNN: Headline: “Senators are worse than robbers – suspects” (The Punch, March 19, 2013).

“A security guard with Honda Place Company (my next door neighbour), who was recently arrested by the Lagos State Police Command for allegedly conniving with robbers to steal goods worth over N28m from the company, has said the police should stop going after petty thieves like himself. Instead, he said, the police should focus their attention on politicians, especially senators and House members, whom he described as the ‘real thieves’.

“The suspect, Garba Sani, complained that the N12,000 he received as salary was too meagre and said he had no choice but to take to crime. He said, ‘I’m not an armed robber, I was on duty and I called them (other suspects) and we took the goods. We did not carry guns. We have a lot of senators looting and we also need money. There are many thieves in Nigeria and most of us are jobless youths, we have nothing. I earn N12,000 a month which is too small. We are all criminals in Nigeria and we have criminal blood in our body so nobody should pretend.’

“Another suspect, Godwin Okwudili, said the police should drop all charges levelled against them since the stolen goods have since been recovered. ‘Sani and I live in the same area. He called me that the goods were available and we went to take them. We did not carry guns. I took the goods to my warehouse and we did not sell them. Everything was recovered intact so what do they (police) want again?’ he said.

“The Police Public Relations Officer, Ngozi Braide, [said] that Sani, Okwudili, along with the other suspects, Obinna Ilojebe, Ndubuisi Ike and Anthony Etemah, were arrested following thorough investigation which lasted for over eight months. She said Sani was the security guard at the company and he connived with the other suspects to rob the company.”

Incidentally, on the same day Pope Benedict XVI resigned, Britain’s Competition Commission delivered a landmark report which confirmed that serious flaws in the audit market had resulted in auditors becoming too cosy with corporate bosses thereby compromising or threatening their independence as well as the objectivity of their oversight. Zolfo Cooper was unrelenting and has taken the battle to the social network: “Auditors should not be bean counters.”