God's Word for today

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Why I left the auditing profession

I was wading through some of my old Toastmasters speeches looking for some sermon illustrations, and came across this speech that I did in about 2005 when I was still under the influence of pineapple beer. When you read this, you will understand why I left the auditing profession...

The story that you are about to hear is absolutely true. No names and places have been changed, since there were no innocent people involved.

This is my job. My name is Steven. I work in an office. I am … an auditor!

There! I said it. Now that you all know, please don’t think any worse of me.
What is an auditor, anyway? Some say that he is someone who arrives after the battle is over, and starts bayoneting all the wounded.

I’m not sure when I started on the long, slippery road to becoming an auditor. Some say that it was that pineapple beer that I imbibed in Standard 8 that started it all. Others believed that my personality was too volatile to become an actuary. Still others believed that I didn’t have a personality at all. And here was me thinking that I didn’t have any friends because I was too busy working.

It all started in 1990, when I decided that I wanted to enter this so-called noble profession. Someone told me that auditors earn obscene amounts of money. If I had actually done my homework properly, I would have spent the first two years of my articles packing beer trucks at SA Breweries instead of playing “accountant – accountant”. That is because those fine folks at SAB were earning a lot more than I was during my first two years, and besides, they didn’t have to drink the tea in our office, either.

Speaking of the tea, the venerable gentleman who made the tea in our office each day was the only man on earth who could burn water. I’m convinced that our tea was of the 1-2-3 variety – one part tea, two parts water, and three parts Cremora. It was such beverages that fortified us for our attack on the big bad world.

And a bad world it was, too. The inappropriately named South African Revenue Service was known as the Receiver of Revenue in those days. At least that was its official name. We used to call it the “Deceiver of Robbin’ You”, and this may have had something to do with the name change.

Their offices were in that dark, dingy hovel at the top of Rissik Street (in downtown Johannesburg) in those days, and there must have been about a hundred doors in that place. The perfect environment for a bit of fun – at the expense of one of our first-year clerks. One fine day, we decided to send her down there for a “Tax Evasion Form”, which resulted in her spending a rather fruitless afternoon exploring the building. “No, sorry, Ma’am, we doesn’t have dose forms, dey must be at Counter Free.” She would then go to Counter Three and be told, “No, youse can’t get dem here, you will have to go to Room 101.”

I haven’t heard anything from her since her arrest, but I understand that she will be let out of prison any day now.

We had some rather interesting clients as well – like old Mr Beinashowitz at Thistledown Knitwear, or Tinseltown as we used to call it. He was a wonderful old soul, but there was one thing that you NEVER asked old Mr B – especially at about twenty past four in the afternoon, when you were packing up to leave: “So how was your recent holiday in Israel?” “Ahh ... Israel is a very interesting country,” he would reply, and then go on to tell you about his latest holiday. The record was about a quarter to seven that we left the one night, courtesy of the Israeli Tourism Bureau.

Then there was Mr Chaim Goldsmith of SA Weatherwear. This company made those baby poo brown safari suits that the Boere used to wear on the railways. We arrived at his factory the one day to check the stock, and the conversation went something like this:
SJ: “Good morning, Mr Goldsmith. Do you have the stock figures for us, please”
CG: “You vant ze stock figures?”
SJ: “Yes, please.”
CG: “You vant to know vot ze stock figure should be?”
SJ: “Yes, please.”
CG: “Vot do you vont it to be?”

Another clerk was doing the petty cash audit, and asked Mr Goldsmith for some vouchers. “Aah, some vouchers?” He opened his desk drawer, and hauled out a pile of vouchers, gave them to the clerk, who started beavering away at them. He then came back, and asked for some more vouchers. “Aah, some more vouchers?” said Mr Goldsmith, who then opened the second drawer and hauled out another pile of vouchers – this pile smelling a bit musty. Two hours later, the clerk sidled across to my desk, and said, “The old bugger’s given me too many vouchers. What do I do now?”

Worse still was the stock audit at a client in rural Swaziland. The client was ostensibly a hardware store, but they in fact sold anything, ranging from tractor tyres to wooden coffins, and it was with one of the coffins that I had a rather unfortunate encounter. Clambering up onto one of the shelves, I lost my footing, and fell on top of the coffin, split the lid lengthways, and came to rest right inside the coffin.

For the rest of the audit, none of the locals wanted to even come near me.

My most harrowing audit experience, however, was when I was sent to a flour mill in Bronkhorstspruit. This client had the ghastliest archive room in the world – old bags of flour, rats running around – and the partner asked me to fetch the Verbal Agreements File. And come hell or high water, I was going to find it!

I have since left the audit profession, deciding instead to settle for a quieter life clearing landmines in Mozambique. However, to those brave men and women, and their proud laptops, I dedicate the following poem:

A man knocked on the Heavenly Gates, his face was lined and old.
He stood before the man of faith to seek admission to the fold.
"What have you done," St. Peter asked, "to seek admission here?"
He said, "Sir, sir, I've been an auditor, for many and many a year."
The Pearly Gates swung open wide, St. Peter rang the bell.
"Come in and choose your harp," he said, "You’ve had your share of hell."

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