The Diversity Deal

unity

Diversity and inclusion are wonderful when they work in your favour. In the last week, Muslims like myself have been the beneficiaries of the world’s love and understanding. At airports around the United States people with open, liberal minds have acknowledged that most of us are just ordinary folk. We only want to live and work in peace and free from fear. Owing no allegiance other than our shared humanity these generous and passionate people stood up for our rights and our cause.

I’ll admit that I am conflicted. There are so many sides to what has happened that I am not sure how to reconcile them all. Let me lay them out for you.

Perhaps easiest to understand is that I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love in the face of an act of hate. It is a bright light in a time of encroaching darkness. I salute all those who have given of their time and skill and energy in the cause of humanity. May whatever powers you believe in uplift you.

But this has also left me with a sense of dread. I fear many Muslims do not understand that this is a two-way deal. We may be heartened by the efforts of others on our behalf, but what will we do when it is time for us to stand up and be counted? I have no doubt that the Trumpists are coming for us all. So, answer me this my Muslim brethren:

You want to live in peace, free from fear, with equal rights to your neighbour, and to practice your beliefs without interference. But if that neighbour is from the LGBT community and will not be served in a local store will you campaign on their behalf? That neighbour’s right to live without molestation is the same as yours.

What if that neighbour is a woman exercising her right to choose, and finds herself denied medical care; will you step forward and raise your voice? Her right to choose what to do with her body is the same as yours.

When emboldened fascists daub swastikas on the local synagogue will you be there to wash the walls and help protect your fearful neighbours? Their right to religious freedom is the same as yours.

All the things you want for yourself you have to be willing to offer to others, without stinting or reservation. If you’re unwilling to do that then you are unworthy of any shred of what has been put on the line for you this week.

That deal has embedded in it the Islamic concept of Adl – justice. What you want for yourself you must want for others, irrespective of what they believe and how they want to live. Freedom for Muslims means freedom for non-Muslims. If you aren’t able to sign up that then sign up to Trump or ISIS, they both believe in one law for them, and one law for everyone else. You think I am exaggerating? See if you can read beyond the first few lines of this from Breitbart without vomiting. I couldn’t. The Alt-Right would restrict women’s education in an echo of the Taliban, and it is their poison being whispered into Trump’s ear.

So how do you reconcile the freedoms you are morally bound to protect, if they war with your own beliefs? That, my friends is a test of faith. If you believe that the message we bear is the Truth then trust in it. Welcome everyone and let your capacity to love and accept bring them closer to you. Or maybe you and I just aren’t the same kind of Muslims. Maybe you are a Muslim that takes pride in the bloody history of Islam of the sword. If so, ISIS is waiting for you, what are you waiting for? My Islam is the one of mercy for mankind.

And in that internal argument of faith lies another source of discomfort. There are countries that export terrorism. Decades of Saudi money peddling the spiritually bereft Wahabi / Salafist ideology has created a generation of emotionally and mentally damaged people, willing to believe violence is an answer. In places this monstrosity has replaced mainstream Islamic thinking. My real dissension with the Trump ban is not its existence, every nation has the right to protect its borders and vet those entering for potential threats. But when that ban specifically excludes the nation that provided the 9/11 hijackers I am left aghast. If the ban had been properly consulted on, discerningly targeted and professionally implemented, it might have been a valid policy. Instead it is an act of naked racism, spiced with a toxic dose of Trump’s personal commercial interests.

And that last leaves me with a sense of fear. I live in London. I only have to contend with the backwash of Brexit and Theresa May trying to sell the country to the highest bidder. But I have friends and loved ones in the US. They are people who cling fiercely to liberal ideals, and carry a deep respect for their fellow humans, irrespective of creed or colour. I fear for them, because their chief executive is trampling on every concept of value in pursuit of his own limited interests. The coming battle for America’s soul is one in which there will be casualties, and my friends are people of conscience who will stand and make their presence felt. I fear for them almost as much as I fear for family in Pakistan who live in the shadow of lawlessness and Salafist terrorists.

The Trumpists are coming for us all, and that brings me back to my initial sense of dread. My challenge is to the Muslims – when they have had enough of you and bully the gay man two doors down from you, will you stand watch so he can sleep safely? Will you escort the woman past the baying mob to the health centre, will you link arms with the Rabbi to keep the fascists from the synagogue? If you want these people to stand up for you, you need to stand up for them. That’s the diversity deal.

END

picture credit Nuccio DiNuzzo

My author site

If you want to read more in a similar vein:

Remember, The White Folks Won

The Gates to Common Ground

J’accuse… the Muslims

 

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Publication – Lifting the Weight

tbm-horror-experts-deaths-head-press-dig-two-graves

My story “Lifting the Weight” is included in this anthology from Death’s Head Press. A bit earthier and more violent than my usual fare, so be warned!

The narrator is a demon with a lust for wealth. Bad luck leaves him cursed by a necromancer, carrying a Weight that he can only relieve by righting wrongs. Following a tip off on a criminal gang he finds himself with a choice between his lust and his freedom.

Check it out on Amazon in the UK and US

Find out more about my writing here.

Upcycling: from scaffold to garden seat

My blog is over five years old and despite enthusiastically adding joinery to the title, I have not once blogged about my woodworking projects.

Time to address that.

One of my neighbours had building work done a couple of years ago. Apart from the aggravation this caused, his workmen left a scaffolding board and another long piece of timber leaning against the back gate to my garden. They obviously intended that I should take possession of them, so one quiet evening I did. I kept them for ages on the grounds they’d come in handy one day.

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They were pretty nasty (the boards, not the workmen). Spiked with nails and head-worn screws, scabrous with lumps of mortar.

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The idea arose when my cousin and his wife bought a new house. With a garden but without a garden seat. What better than an upcycled bench for them to sit on of a summer’s evening and watch the sun set on the brambles crowding over from them neighbour?

I set myself the constraint of working with the dimensions of what I had (this was a mistake, as you’ll see) and apart from new hardware only using the generously donated materials.

There was quite a lot of crap on the boards. Brute force dealt with the nails, but some of the screw heads and tips had to be ground off, which meant careful planning of where I made cuts later. A hammer and bolster did for the big lumps of mortar, but I did eventually resort to the belt sander to get all of it off.

I lifted the dimensions roughly from my own garden bench, mainly for the height of the bench and the back. The width was set by the board itself. I decided early on that I wanted the legs and arm rests to be one piece, mainly to minimise the number of joints and points of failure.

Be warned scaffold boards are dense. I cut by hand, with the jigsaw and with the two different blades on my old Black and Decker Scorpion. The board was just too unweildy for my table saw and of course that would be useless for even basic curves.

This was hard work. I suspect a modern variant of the Scorpion would be best and that my antique (about fifteen years old and well used) has just run out of puff and sharp blades.

You’ll notice in the design I cut out a little arch in the legs. I wanted to get the weight down and this was a cute but simple way of doing it.

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I joined the seat to the arms with offset half laps. I know these are considered quite weak, but with the thickness of the wood and the width of the board this gave me a really secure join. I backed it up with a couple of pocket screws as well.

The joints were a really tight fit, the mallet was not enough. In the end I had to get out the fencing hammer and use gentle persuasion. More hard work but the end result was worth it. The point of the offset (rather than going the half way through) was to allow the bench to sit a bit further forward, away from the back rest, otherwise you’d be sitting upright like on a church pew.

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The overhang on the sides was deliberate. I had in mind a cup of tea at the end of a long day, so a place to rest it integrated into the bench seemed like a good idea. I also went over all the edges with a round over bit on the router for a neater finish. Apart from that I left most of the nail holes and damage unrepaired. Regular followers will know I am a storyteller and I wanted the material to tell its story.

Of course life intervened, I didn’t finish before the weather turned, so the project was stored outside covered in tarps through the winter. And that is where the glaring design flaw became apparent. The slightest gust of wind would blow the damned thing over. The heavy scaffold board made the centre of gravity quite high, and the relatively narrow width just didn’t provide enough stability.

I’d thought about this and put a couple of extensions on the legs, but it just wasn’t enough.

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First job the next summer was to add more width to the base to keep the whole thing standing.

I coloured it golden oak, and there we have it, job done.

I’m not sure that my cousin has made much use of it, but Milo the cat loves it.

 

 

 

Publication Announcement – Finding Galatea in Transcendent

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A little late with this one – I was travelling. I’m delighted to have my story Finding Galatea published alongside fabulous contributions in this lush (and large) anthology.

In Finding Galatea we meet Cyrus, a man with exceptional senses. He escapes the sensory overload of London to take refuge in Seville, where he meets Beatriz. She is perfect, a woman of peculiar beauty who has no scent. Their lives and love flourish.

When Beatriz’s sister Joanna goes missing Cyrus must return to London and the sordid underworld he left behind. But in searching for Joanna he risks losing the woman from beyond his imagination.

You can listen to me reading a bit from my story here

And there is an excerpt on Transmundane Press’s site here

Fans of English renaissance tragedies will be pleased to know there is also a character called Rowley.

Here’s the blurb for the anthology:

A parallel dimension exists below the surface of reality.

Its doors swing open every time we sleep, allowing us passage into the land of DREAMS, a plane rich with exotic fantasy and limitless bliss. Within this wonder world, however, lurk dark corridors and terrible creatures—some unfortunate travelers never escape the NIGHTMARES waiting in the shadows.

Many have tried bridging our worlds. Seekers and wise men have meditated for VISIONS and ingested intoxicants for HALLUCINATIONS in hopes that the veil between our realms will thin, allowing access to all the thrills, joys, and horrors beyond our senses.

TRANSCENDENT is an open gate, a gangway linking our realm to the shimmering sphere where nothing is certain and anything is possible.

Get your copy now!

Head over to the Transmundane Press site for readings, excerpts and author interviews.

 

 

Rohit Sawant has put together this lovely credits list:

Transcendent Author List Rohit Sawant.jpg

Find out more about my writing here.

Me and Me Too. Even You

Pepé Le Pew.svg

Source: Wikipedia

That moment when the penny finally drops about misogyny:

Me and Me Too. Even You

Signals saturate the spectrum
But now the noise is clearing
We can hear what we’ve been taught

The brooding dripping man film
Blade Runner. Deckard demanding
Rachel’s compliance
It’s OK she isn’t human
Listen

Bond, being James Bond
And we all wanted that
Magnetic watch
It’s all about the gadget
Not the girl. Listen

Today. Searching for the perfect gif
My cleverness and wit
I hear at last
The true lesson taught
At our mother’s teat
No never means no
You, Pepe le Pew. Even You

Ruswa Fatehpuri 2018

I wrote this while thinking of the perfect gif with which to respond to a friend on facebook – she had posted something about a hair colour change. Pepe losing his stripe or Penelope gaining one is a frequent plot device in the cartoons. It was going to be hilarious. Then I really saw what I was looking at.

Oh, and the fact that I masquerade in poet guise as Ruswa Fatehpuri is a poorly kept and entirely uninteresting secret. Was.

And if you are going to dive into a Blade Runner rabbit hole that involves Deckard really being a replicant you’ve pretty well missed the point.

End

Find out more about my writing here.

There is a Ruswa Fatehpuri chapbook out there too

 

 

 

 

The Nunicorn

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A Nunicorn  – not a horse with a horn, a donkey with a hook!

The Nunicorn

(a story for children of all ages)

The myth about fairies and unicorns, Nobby thought to himself, was that they weren’t all nice and noble. He plodded his way along the dirt track, his heavy hooves leaving deep imprints in the mud. Earlier a pair of unicorns had galloped by, seeming to float over the ground and looking magnificent of course. They didn’t notice the thick clods they threw up into Nobby’s face. Nobby was a nunicorn and no one cared what he thought.

The cart creaked and swayed behind him. At least that did not weigh much. He was meant to have a load of bright red apples from the orchard, but instead he had a barrel of seashells. Pippin the apple fairy had promised to transform them for him on the outskirts of the fairy village.

Everyone thought fairies only drank nectar straight from flowers, and unicorns munched grass in unspoilt forest glades, but they all loved apples and someone had to haul them in. Pippin remembered what it was like to be an outcast and quietly helped Nobby in his thankless duty. They had to keep it a secret though because the magic people were still a bit scared of Pippin’s ability to turn anything she touched into an apple. Fortunately, while the fairies and unicorns were graceful and lovely they weren’t very bright, and so far Nobby had never been caught.

It was a long trudge from the seashore and Nobby was covered in sweat by the time he reached the meeting point with Pippin. She was nowhere to the seen. With a sigh, Nobby dipped his head and let the thick rope attached to the cart slip off the hook that protruded from his forehead.

“Ho Nobmeister!” A unicorn appeared in a sudden cloud of road dust, rearing up magnificently on his hind legs. It was Fidelio. The unicorn nosed his way to the cart, trying to nudge aside the canvas covering the barrel.

“Give us an apple,” he said. Most people who love unicorns don’t know they can speak, which is just as well because they are not very well spoken.

“Can’t,” Nobby replied, truthfully. It was impossible to lie to a unicorn.

“Why the flippin’ ‘eck not?” Fidelio snorted and pranced back a few steps.

Nobby desperately thought of an excuse. Where was Pippin, she had promised to be here?

“They’re not quite ready yet,” he said. It wasn’t precisely a lie, and Fidelio did not seem to notice.

“Want one.” Fidelio nosed towards the barrel again.

“It’s your choice of course,” Nobby said with a shrug, “but if you eat those I think you’ll get a terribly upset tummy.” He looked meaningfully at Fidelio’s bushy silver tail. “I’m not sure you could lift that high enough to keep it clean.”

Unicorns are also terribly vain. Fidelio backed away and Nobby breathed a sigh of relief.

“Oh Nobby, you’re exaggerating.” Nobby jumped at the new voice.

Pippin was leaning on the cart and held out an apple to Fidelio in one gloved hand. Her other hand was hidden behind her back.

“Yeah, Nobbo. Exaggerating.” If Fidelio wanted to complain more his words were lost in a sudden mouthful of apple. He pranced off with a shake of his magnificent mane.

“That was close.” Nobby twisted to give Pippin a nuzzle and she offered him an apple. As always it was juicy and crunchy and sweet.

“Sorry Nobby, there was a terrible storm last night and it has made travel really difficult.” Pippin flapped water from her wings and lifted a muddy shoe.

“Tell me about it, I’ve been slogging through this sticky muck all morning.”

“Oh Nobby,” Pippin said, scratching the base of his hook, “things will get better for you one day, I’m sure.”

Nobby dropped his head, Pippin was one of the few fairies that was kind to him. The others had no time for someone who looked as odd as he did. If something wasn’t lovely and pretty and nice the fairies had trouble accepting it. They assumed that anything outside their narrow view of what was beautiful must be either evil or pitied. The unicorns were just mean. A nunicorn, they said, wasn’t even a thing, it was a mistake. Everyone knew there were mundane horses and donkeys, and stupendous horses with a magic horn called unicorns. There were even legends of an exceptional horse with two magic horns called a bicorn, but no one had seen one of those. Then they looked at Nobby. Whoever heard of a donkey with a hook? they said. That is exactly what Nobby was.

“I’ve got an idea!” Pippin said, grabbing Nobby’s gristly mane in excitement. “If you could do something really brave, or really spectacular everyone would have to change the way they think about you.”

Nobby shook his head and took a couple of steps backwards. Pippin could get over excited and if she touched him with an ungloved hand she would turn him into an apple.

“Like what?”

“I don’t know, maybe you could save someone in danger, or find something no one else could.”

“Like the bicorn?” Nobby snorted, “no that can’t be right. Why should I have to do something special to be treated with basic respect. What you’re saying is that because I am different I have to work harder than everyone else. Why is that fair?”

Pippin sighed. “I think you’re expecting the world to be fair, and it isn’t.”

Nobby regretted his outburst. The fairies had been unkind to Pippin and were still not welcoming. But he still felt angry. He and Pippin were as they were and fairies and unicorns should just accept it. He dipped his head and picked up the strap for the cart, resting it against his forehead.

“Come on Pippin. You hop into the cart and transform those shells, and I’ll get us underway. Everyone will be wondering where their apples have got to.”

They hadn’t gone far when they heard shouting from the road ahead. They rounded a corner and found the two unicorns that had gone galloping ahead stuck in muddy bog caused by a dip in the road. Fidelio was prancing around the edge of the bog and not doing anything useful.

“Help,” the unicorns cried. “We’re stuck in this sticky stuff and getting stucker. It’s all over our shiny coats and getting stuck in our silky manes.” They both whinnied and shook their heads, spraying mud all over. Fidelio gave a yelp and backed away, unwilling to get dirty.

“Now’s your chance Nobby.” Pippin jumped down from the cart and hurried to the edge of the mud.

“I’m not doing this for your silly plan Pip. I’m doing this because it is the right thing to do,” Nobby grumbled. He dropped the strap attached to the cart and with a twist of his hook unhitched it from the cart as well.

Pippin bent down to pick it up.

“Wait!” Nobby shouted.

Pippin had been about to touch the strap with an ungloved hand. It would have turned into an apple and there would be no way to save the unicorns.

“That was lucky.” Pippin picked up the strap in her gloved hand and threw one end to the trapped unicorns. They started fighting over it.

“Give it here.”

“Leggo, give it me.”

“Stop it,” Nobby shouted at them. To his surprise they did. “One at a time or neither of you is getting out.”

Sheepishly one of the unicorns dipped its head into the strap.

“Out the way Nobmeister, this is a job for unicorn power.” Fidelio hitched the other end of the strap on his horn and began to pull. The stuck unicorn edged forward and fell back as the strap slipped off Fidelio’s horn.

“Just getting’ the hang of it,” Fidelio said. He took up the strap again. This time it slipped straight off. “Fiddlesticks,” Fidelio said. He turned to the two unicorns. “Sorry folks looks like you’re stuck forever.”

Nobby and Pippin shared an amused look. Pippin took the strap and dropped it over Nobby’s hook.

Nobby began to pull. The unicorn was heavy, and it was well stuck. Nobby pulled harder. His hooves began to slip on the wet ground. He braced himself and pulled with all his might. The edges of his vision went red, stars danced in front of his eyes. He felt his horn grow suddenly very hot. In the distance a horsey shape emerged from the trees. It shone like a black diamond and swam in Nobby’s vision. It seemed to have two horns.

Nobby gasped just as the first unicorn came out of the muck with a loud sucking schlopping pop.

“Did you see that?” he gasped.

“You were amazing Nobby,” said Pippin.

“Did you… oh nevermind.” The other unicorn was straining for the strap. When he was ready Nobby pulled again. This time his hook grew hot the first time, and just before the unicorn popped out of the mud Nobby saw the strange figure in the trees again.

Both unicorns were standing with their heads bowed, covered in mud. Fidelio pranced back and trotted around them.

“Look at the state of you. It’ll take weeks to clean that off and I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of the smell.” He stopped and looked down at Nobby. “Good job Nobbo. Seems like you’re a decent sort after all. I’ll be sure to tell the others.” With that he was off, somehow avoiding the mud pool himself.

“Well?” Pippin asked.

“Well what?”

“You’re a hero now. You should go and make the most of it.”

Nobby shook his head. He couldn’t shake the image of the strange horse with two horns.

“I’m going to go away for a while Pip. I’m off to find the bicorn. Not for them, but for me.”

Pippin’s eyes went wide. She reached out to stroke his mane and stopped. She had been reaching with an ungloved hand. “You’ll not find much if I turn you into an apple. Speaking of apples, what about those?” She pointed to the cart.

“I think the fairies and unicorns can haul their own apples for a while.”

END

Find out more about my writing here.

 

For those who have read my adult fiction, a biographical note. These children’s stories are where I started. I was enraged by a fairy story franchise that played on the acquisitiveness of children, churning out books with regurgitated storylines I can’t describe as “plots”, and merely changing the colour or gemstone of the fairy involved. So I started making up my own for the kids, rather than buy them more of this trash (because they had to have X the Xish fairy to complete the set…)

My kids preferred my stories and so the saga began. Recently my younger daughter asked me to rehash this one for her as she has a textiles project to do at school, based on her favourite story. Since I was writing it down I thought I would share it will my beloved blog followers.

Somewhere I have about 20k words of the story of Pippin Apple, which was intended to be a novel, but life intervened.

And no, I can’t draw.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Eighth Year and the Myth of Audit

yes-full

Source: https://sites.google.com/site/spritetump/odobrosonha

25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. 27 The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine. [Genesis]

 

Businesses are about people. People who do, people who lead, and people who count stuff. This is about the counters. The bean counters. The dour professionals with their ledgers and their double entries. With their standards and their prudence. The accountants.

There are two distinct classes of accountant. The first win their spurs in the rarefied atmosphere of a professional services firm. They’re not the cream of their graduating class. Those guys and girls got snapped up by the boutique consultancies. They’re not the most ambitious, that group goes on to endure sixteen-hour days and bigotry in an investment bank. No, the ones who file through the doors of the big four accountancy firms to join the training treadmill are good but not great, maybe (whisper it) just a bit boring. Or shout: Pasty faced shoegazers.

The really wild ones, the ones that wear brown shoes, go into tax.

A notch further down this hierarchy go to the second-tier firms, let’s not worry about them.

And then you have the waifs and strays of the finance profession. The urchins, urchin’ around on corporate graduate schemes to become what no parent wishes for – a management accountant. I was one of those, out of university without a clue and onto the only graduate scheme that was still hiring. I became an accountant by mistake, and it took me sixteen years to stop.

There is a whiff around accountants these days. It is not as bad as the miasma surrounding bankers, who are the unwholesome spawn of Baal, but a sulphurous odour nonetheless. The failure of Carillion is a recent but not isolated lodestone for public ire.

Carillion, and all such failures, are first and foremost the failure of their own management team, but attention inevitably turns to their auditors. Where were the standards and the prudence while the company flushed its way down the toilet?

My answer lies with the Prophet Joseph and God.

Text books are filled with all the worthy roles a finance function performs to keep its host business alive and healthy. I doubt any of them mention that it plays the role of Joseph.

Being employed is as much about the certainty of employment next year as it is about this week’s wages (unless you are one of the sociopaths known as an entrepreneur). That gives the internal accountant or the commercial finance person or management accountant, call them what you will, two key but rarely mentioned tasks: dealing with lies and making life boring.

People will lie for an easy life. Whether it is the operational manager whose team could not possibly deliver cost savings next year, or the salesperson bemoaning market conditions for lower revenue target, the life of the management accountant is beset by liars. Learning the business, filtering out the bullshit and being credible in this environment is a core skill which means you can put together a coherent, challenging and achievable business plan.

Making life boring is just as important. Steady, predictable growth and modest improvements year on year keep everyone employed. Bonuses don’t fluctuate, hard questions are avoided.

Life and business aren’t like that. Myriad exogenous factors can lead to a good year or a bad year. In this the management accountant is Joseph, and her/his granaries are the balance sheet.

Putting a little bit aside in a good year is just prudence. A provision against what may befall in the future. Provisions are essentially subjective: I think I may owe someone money in the future, I’ve assessed the risk, I’ve taken a little bit out of this year’s profits against that possibility.

Often this is for a good, uncontroversial reason. Sometimes it is just because this year’s numbers are looking a bit too good, and next year might be tough. Smoothing out volatility makes everyone more comfortable, and in the medium term all profits will be declared, all taxes paid, and no harm done. A victimless crime. In fact, in the exercise of judgement and prudence, not a crime at all.

Everyone sleeps well at night.

Where is the auditor in all of this? In practical terms – utterly powerless. As a financial controller I expected my junior finance managers (around their first full year post qualification) to be able to run rings around any auditor. They could justify a provision one day, and when the corporate numbers looked a bit better the next day, argue the opposite. Sometimes they did this just to alleviate the grind of the year-end close.

Learning to deal with liars makes you quick on your feet and fills your armoury with credible half-truths and myths about the business. I’ve made up this example to protect ex-colleagues, but they’ll recognise the tone “we get more refund claims against us on a Tuesday, and next year there are more Tuesdays than this year, so some of the revenue earned this year is at risk…”

You can’t really blame the auditors. Most have never stepped outside their glass and steel edifice. As their careers progress the cream keep getting skimmed off to do business advisory work or are enticed away by corporate riches. Quality diminishes with seniority.

In which case what is the point of the tax every business has to pay in audit fees?

And so we come to God. People behave better when they think there is someone watching. A warning sign about speed cameras makes you slow down, even if you are pretty sure there is no actual camera.

Most accounting is carried out by software, most decisions, even marginal ones, are benign. The presence of the auditor is just to remind the CFO not to do something really bad. The probability that Tina or Tim nice-but-dim from DeToiletWaterhouse will actually catch you is low, but the consequences are high, so don’t do it.

That’s fine when good years are followed by bad years and more good years. But think about Joseph. What happens in the eighth year of famine? At that point the Prophet would rely not on prudence in filling the granaries, but on a miracle.

Accountants can perform miracles too. Balance sheet sleight of hand and some fast talking can draw forward future performance and prop up the eighth year. Sometimes they get away with it, the ninth year is fine, the borrowed future repaid, and everyone sleeps soundly again. Employees keep getting paid, audit fees are earned and disaster avoided. Another victimless crime?

Maybe.

No one knows with certainty what will happen in the ninth year. And at what point does Pharoah (the CEO) who has put years into a business, or a deposit on a yacht, have the incentive to say “actually, we’re toast.”

Aha, but God (aka the auditor) is watching.

True. But remember all those little white lies, the marginal provisions? We all know there is no camera.

Besides, the auditor is also invested in the business. Years of boozy lunches and advisory add-ons have been earned. Believing in the ninth year means they may be earned again. The auditor that calls foul in the eighth year is a heretic. Any business can have a run of bad luck, who wants an auditor that does not believe?

The myth is that oversight works. Thousands of years of religion have proved this to be untrue. Paradise is a long way off; the pleasures of sinning are present and immediate. God may be watching, but most of the time (floods and plagues of locusts aside) does nothing. And auditors are far from omniscient.

Just like everyone else they also want to be employed next year. Except on the very brink of disaster, there is no incentive for them to call out a business that is sinking.

The entire system needs a rethink. It is grounded in a history of manual ledgers and petty cash. The risky parts of the economy are now wholly electronically controlled. Money is digital, transactions are coded. It is possible to be omniscient about transactions. The risks are all in the making of decisions. Why force every business to pay the audit fee tax, the modern day tithe to the church, for oversight that is over-engineered and yet impotent?

Better in my view is a system which focusses where the risks are. A smaller, better experienced, commercially aware and technically well-resourced group that can spot check businesses at will. An arm of government that is protected from mixed incentives, with tools and powers to keep businesses on their toes.

If we need someone to play God, better the government than the self-interested.

END

The views expressed are strictly my own and not those of any employer past or present.

Find out more about my writing here.