By N.A. Bhatti
A candidate for an accountant's
vacancy was asked whether he was familiar with the
double entry system of accounting.
"Double entry? I am expert even in the triple
"What's that?" asked the puzzled interviewer.
"Simple, Sir. I maintain one account for the
boss, showing profits; one for the company's shareholders
showing no profit, no loss; and one for the auditors
showing a loss!"
He was hired.
It is sometimes rumored that armed forces accounts
are not subject to audit. This is not true. However,
sometimes, audit objections (or 'observations' as
they are euphemistically termed nowadays) are raised
to show that the auditors have really worked diligently
to earn their livelihood.
For instance, there used to bse an account maintained
on Pakistan Navy warships, called the ACES Fund
Account. ('Amenities, Comforts, Entertainment and
Sports Fund Account'). Out of this fund were purchased
items like musical instruments, indoor games, sports
equipment, playing cards, newspapers, magazines
and such items designed to make the tough life on
a warship more tolerable, especially when it was
out at sea for long periods.
When the auditors came on board PNS 'Sind' where
I was serving, one of their observations was that
no money appeared to have been credited to the ACES
Fund Account for the sale of old newspapers.
The Petty Officer concerned explained that as soon
as the newspapers were delivered on board every
morning, the sailors made off with pages of their
own interest. Some snatched the outer sheet containing
the main headline news, some went for the Sports
page, some for the City Page; some grabbed whichever
part they could lay their hands on and rushed off
to the 'heads', (the Navy's term for 'latrines').
There they read at leisure after which they used
it for 'you-guess-what'. Naturally there was nothing
left for sale to any kabari (junk dealer).
The fussy auditor's observation was: "Please
quote the authority under which newspapers may be
used in the ship's heads."
PNS 'Sind' responded: "Please quote authority
under which newspapers may not be used in the ship's
This temporarily foxed the auditors but kept the
observation pending until their next visit. This
time the ship answered laconically: "Done is
The audit team left happily with six tins of duty-free
555 cigarettes as a 'gift' from the crew who retained
the option of taking newspapers to the heads! Audit
A wackier case was that of an old ship taken out
for its final voyage before being decommissioned
and sold as scrap. The commanding officer made the
mistake of anchoring above a rocky sea bottom. The
anchor got stuck in the rocks and resisted the powerful
capstan from hauling it up, resulting in the steel
cable parting and leaving the anchor on the bottom.
This was considered poor seamanship. Some way had
to be found to save the commanding officer's reputation
by cooking up a 'Loss Statement'.
The auditors apparently never realized that there
was anything amiss when they were given the reason
for the loss: 'Eaten up by termites'. Fancy a ton-and-a-half
chunk of solid iron being eaten up by termites!
But the auditors swallowed the cock-and-bull explanation.
And now for an experience when I found myself 'promoted'
from 'auditee' (there's no such word but what's
the alternative?) to auditor of domestic accounts.
Chaudhry Sahib is normally quite a jolly fellow
but when I called on him a few days ago, he was
pacing up and down in his lawn, looking worried
about something, so I tried to humor him with a
bit from Keats' La Belle Dame Sans Merci.
"Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So cold and palely loitering?"
He breathed a cold sigh and led me into his study.
His work desk was littered with paper sheets, chits,
scraps, printed receipts, invoices, estimates, paper,
paper, paper in "all its forms and manifestations",
as they repeat ad nauseum nowadays whenever they
talk of terrorism.
"I see! Whose fault is it?" I demanded.
"Your Bhabi's !"
He then picked up a register with the words Domestic
Accounts inscribed on its front cover and thrust
it into my hand.
"I hereby appoint you as our family's honorary
"But look, I have never poked my nose into..."
"I am not ready for any but-shut! Start your
audit observations pronto!"
"Chaudhry Sahib, I think..."
"Life is too short for thinking. Don't think,
"OK, OK, but what are these scattered papers?"
"Vouchers, what else?" he replied.
Since no 'voucher' bore adequate details, I stuffed
all of them into a large brown envelope lying on
the table, flung them into the waste paper basket
and gave my decision: "Audit observations settled!"
Then I started on the Cash Book. The first page
was neatly ruled and the columns given proper headings
like 'Date', 'Receipt', 'Expenditure', 'Details'
"Your Begum appears to have been very meticulous
in maintaining her accounts!" I remarked.
Page 2 of the Cash Book was also up to the mark.
However, the handwriting appeared to be a bit sloppy.
Page 3 wasn't even ruled properly and the columns
on Page 4 even bore no headings. The dates fizzled
out on Page 5 after which there were no entries
for the past three years!
Just then Begum Chaudhry entered. She had been witnessing
the drama all along.
"Meray bhai!" she began. "With inflation
rocketing sky-high and our purchasing power diving,
do you think it is humanly possible to maintain
a domestic account? They told us years ago that
we have broken our kashkol (begging bowl) forever
but it appears to be made of tungsten steel and
is as strong and healthy as ever. And who suffers?
Now tell me the utility of maintaining domestic
accounts. Do you think that...Anyway I just dropped
in to remind you not to buy the chicken and fish
yet! We can't afford them for this month at least.
And postpone the car's servicing till next month.
And cancel those plumbing repair orders."
"I agree with Begum Sahiba! After all she has
a Masters degree in Economics," I said, tearing
up the Cash Account book and flinging it into the
"Audit complete. No observations", I announced.
This was an unprecedented audit in which the account
to be audited was consigned to the trash. The Chaudhrys
don't maintain domestic accounts any more. Neither
do we. Of what use are domestic accounts when daily
life is a hand to mouth struggle to survive?