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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Audit blues

Just what could be so painful for an internal auditor? I think it is to audit a friend who is suspected of defrauding the company.

That happened to me before. One of our field auditors uncovered something on our former colleague, a really close friend, on his regular branch audit. He did not want to go deeper and none of the others wanted to do it too even if I assigned it to them. I couldn’t force them because even I would not want to do it but we had a responsibility to the company so someone has got to do it. On reflection, I also thought that it would be a bigger sin to be thinking about the possible extent of what he did than to be sure of what he did. I wanted to be proved wrong of what I was thinking based on the initial result than to be constantly wondering about it. It would be like I was accusing him in my head and he wouldn’t be able to justify himself.

I knew that it was going to be painful auditing him but to be actually there doing it and facing him was like a knife cutting through my heart! A mixture of pity and disappointment for his part and a betrayal on my part. I did not want that experience that again!

Last Thursday, I got a call from one of our sales boss telling me that there has been an anomaly in one of our branches. I’m supposed to send a field auditor but all of them are in the middle of their engagements so I went instead and brought along one of our Head Office Stationed Auditors to assist me and also to train her. I’m not really close to the people involved but I have seen them before and would talk to them over the phone on occasion. They have been with the company a long time and I felt sad thinking about the repercussion of their act to their family.

When I got there, they were still around but they were alrady on their way out per instruction of their boss. When I asked one of them why they did it, she embraced me tightly and cried hard! She was saying that she was sorry but that she was just so hard up that she did it! I asked them how they will be… if their husbands had work? No… their husbands had no work, they were the bread winners... I really couldn’t tell them much considering that they would not be getting anything from the company plus they might face court action. And to think that they have been with the company a long time. One of them has been with the company 22 years and has actually requested to avail of the company’s offer for early retirement while the other has been with the company for 19 years. I could not really say anything so I just embraced her back. I wish I was just reviewing the report and not actually doing the investigation. You are more objective when you only see the name on paper. But an auditor has to set the feelings aside… one should be objective at all times and everything would be coming out of the report, no matter what you feel about the matter.

Just what drove these two women to do what they did?

They were heavily in debt. I never realized the extent of their financial woes until one of the task force came and mentioned that they owed her a big amount, that they have credit card debts and debts in all the cooperatives and lending people in our company. The audit showed that they were borrowing money on their collection on certain days but would be able to cover them up before the month end (probably after they were able to borrow from somebody else) so that their cash and records submitted to head office would tally but eventually they have exhausted all means of credit.

One of the things I learned over the years is that there is really no one that would do something just for the heck of it (and if so.. it would be very very rare). Fraud usually start with just borrowing money because there is a need and an opportunity. There is always the desire to return it when you are able. It starts small, then it increases the frequency it is committed… you are not caught and you become more creative until a time comes when you can’t control it anymore. It also happens when some people turn a blind eye on little infractions because they themselves have infractions too, never realizing the extent another has become involved. And by that time it is too late… it is not just the person who is involve that suffers but his whole family because they are usually the bread winners in their family.

I must admit that life in our country is really difficult. It is hard to make both ends meet for most people BUT we have too. Going beyond means you will be encroaching on other people’s resources… resources of people who think it is okay to just give and give because saying NO is hard. But sometimes giving is not healthy anymore – it is possible that you still have enough for yourself but the people you are giving starts to just rely on you for their every need and they don’t move anymore…or even if you don’t have enough for yourself, you can’t say NO to the people you love. You force yourself to produce for all their needs and they begin to think that you are a superwoman whom they can trust always not realizing that they have put you to hell… and you don’t show them because you want the best for them… until such time that you breakdown and they are left with nothing but debts and they don’t know how to deal with it because you never taught them in the first place… and the people you borrowed money from or the people who borrowed money for you (because you can’t borrow anymore) are affected… so many lives actually become affected.

Ahh… am not really sure where this post will lead… so many things keep popping in my head. I’m not really feeling well plus I guess I still have the blues from writing the audit report. I think I better just stop and take some rest... maybe I’ll just sing my blues away and feel better…


Anonymous myepinoy said...

It is really painful to audit a friend. Pero kailangan kasi trabaho at yan ang profession mo.

Sometimes I wonder how this is done without being bias.

The one you mentioned about giving too much is very true to most OFW's. This goes to the point that they (dependents) live like kings and queens but the poor OFW lives more than a miser.

Again, i wonder, is this act of an OFW a real sacrifice or plain stupidity?

PS. Beth, dedo na yong host ng dati ko url expat.fil.ph. ito na ang bago http://myepinoy.wordpress.com. Salamat.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Really sad, Beth. lalo na that thay have been with the company for decades.

I'm really at a loss for words. Sayang, no?

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's quite unfortunate but from the point of view of ethics and professionalism, an infraction had been committed and the violator must face the consequences.

It is truly hard on the auditor to turn over a friend for an infraction but an auditor is sworn to perform his/her job without bias. It is at this point that friendships will cease to exist and professionalism must take over.

My own take in this is to toughen up my heart and accept that my honesty as an auditor is reflective of my character as a professional and there is absolutely nothing obscene with it. In truth, if EVERY auditor in RP would be like me, the country would be in much better financial shape, and the misery of the people will be alleviated.

1:10 PM  
Blogger elizabeth said...

Yes you do your work and you do it objectively, you set aside your feelings and concentrate on evidences and present the result even if the outcome is unfavorable to your friend.

But somehow when you come to him face to face and see the sorrow in his eyes, you hurt because you expected more of him and you hope that someone else audited him instead of you, you hurt because you considered him a good friend and shouldn't he have gone to you to ask help if he was in trouble.

I dunno feelings come, you can't help it. still you have to do what you have to do.

10:42 PM  

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