Rethinking future career paths

Ever since I was little, I have always wanted to be an auditor. As absurd as this may seem, it is the truth. While most kids dreamed about flying fighter planes or riding on a red choo-choo, I dreamed of money and the prestige of having a CA (SA) next to my name. But all this is about to change.

A short while ago, I read an article in the FM magazine, which basically wrote that auditors have an unlimited personal liability. (Seriously?!?!?!) In other words, if I was to audit a limited liability company and I failed to pick up on fraudulent activities, investors of the said company could initiate a lawsuit against me and I would have to pay for the damages. (Recent case study: one of the big four auditing firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers, is being sued for R7.6 bn for failing to disclose the fraud relating to the late Brett Kebble.) No wonder the country is struggling to recruit more auditors into the field (the number currently stands at 4 500, and has been for the past several years).

When doctors malpractice, they are covered by insurance. When a Pty (Ltd) goes bust, it is protected by limited liability. So, why should an audit company have to operate with potential million-Rand lawsuits breathing down its neck? SAICA has since been pushing for a more equitable position whereby liability is shared or limited to a multiple of the audit fee, but the proposal has been “universally rejected”.

One of the reasons why I chose auditing as opposed to financial management was because I was under the illusion that financial managers worked under a great amount of stress, while auditors did not (relatively speaking of course). The illusion has since been cleared. Luckily, I have not yet signed away my soul to anyone, so I still have a couple of options left: 1) Stay on the auditing path and hope I don’t get sued, or 2) Change to financial management and sign with Investec or one of the banks.

Decisions, decisions…

Thoughts/feedbacks are welcomed.

The PwC Experience

As some of you may know, I recently applied for a vacation work programme offered by PricewaterhouseCoopers, currently ranked the world’s top auditing firm.  The programme this year was only 4 days long (as opposed to the customary 2-week programme); and as my snooping censors later discovered, the reason for the contraction was due to the branch taking up more vac workers than intended, thus compelling them to shorten the training period.  Despite the week being short-lived, the experience was incomparable and beyond expectations.

Day 1: The 18-odd vacation workers rocked up just before 8 am, dressed in the best office attires, each one looking as nervous as the next.  We were quickly ushered to the board room where we would have our first briefing by the HR manager.  After the initial ice-breaker exercise, we were slightly more relaxed and chatty.  The 18 vac workers were equally divided down the gender line and came from all different walks of life.  After we received our free sets of PwC stationery, we were taken on an office tour, and were introduced to the amazing coffee machines from which the best cappuccinos were made.   The remainder of the day consisted of various talks and presentations by the PwC employees on topics such as: Auditing, Taxation, PPE (Property, Plant and Equipment), etc.  We got a little bit more insight into what the different sections entailed and how it differs from text-book materials.  At the end of the day, I felt more knowledgeable and was actually looking forward to what the rest of the week had to offer.

Day 2: The progression went similar to day 1, where the morning was filled with more presentations about financial statements, bank and cash, etc.  We also had an extended lunch break where we lounged in the social area for two hours, and satisfied our appetites with a dozen Debonairs pizzas.  After lunch, we worked on our modelling project (a team-building exercise).  Basically, we were divided into two groups, and each group had to design and create an outfit using recyclable materials.  So, we got money from the petty cash and drove to the mall in search of materials.  My group ended up spending close to R130, and bought stacks of crinkle paper, strings, glue, marbles, cardboard paper, and others.  We worked on our dress until 4 pm, and called it a day.

Day 3: The vac workers were assigned to a PwC trainee and had to shadow that person for half a day.  The lucky ones got to go out and visit clients while the rest of us stayed at the office and did mundane jobs such as photocopying, filing, and ticking.  The ones who went out however, had the opportunity to see first-hand how casinos operate and what kind of procedures go into auditing casinos.  One person even went around visiting the various Departments and Legislatures, and had lunch with the VIPs.  The afternoon was once again dedicated to the modelling project where my group tried to bring the design on the paper to life.

Day 4: The last day was very much relaxed.  It started with a Q&A section with the trainee accountants, followed by a presentation on Advisory and CSI where we were introduced to the world of forensics, IT auditing, and many more.  At lunch, we were each given a R60 Spur voucher to spend on whatever we wanted.  I ended up sharing a Ribs & Buffalo Wings with a friend, and it was quite frankly one of the best I’ve had in a long time.  We got back to the office around 2 pm and did some last minute fixings to our dress, and waited patiently for the modelling show to start.  At 4 pm sharp, we wandered to the social area, and eyed the crates of alcoholic beverages on the counter.  The eager beavers helped themselves to the drinks while the rest of us prepared the models for the ‘run-way’.  At the end, despite my group’s meticulous efforts, our Princess Ogre outfit was simply no match for the other team’s transsexual cross-dresser, complete with fake boobs, red lipstick, steel-wool wig and tinfoil shin warmers.  Luckily there was plenty of booze left for us to drown in our defeat.  After we received our cheques (and more freebies!) we thanked the wonderful PwC team for giving us such a wonderful experience, and I went home with a huge dial on my face.

Sax Appeal – Gone too far?

Every year, the UCT RAG committee publishes a comical satire that ridicules political figures, religious groups, sensitive animal lovers and many more. Copies of Sax Appeal are distributed across Cape Town by UCT students around mid-Feb, and all proceeds go towards SHAWCO, a student-run charity organisation. The 2009 publication, however, contained an article that sparked fury and outrage amongst Christians, and ignited a heated debate over the prudency and morality of the publication.

Article in question:

pg 1

pg 1

pg2

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The last frame on page 1 caused a significant amount of controversy. Even non-Christians thought it to be excessively harsh. Protestors termed it as a personal attack on Christians. They demanded a formal apology from UCT RAG, and the Vice-Chancellor, as well as disciplinary actions for the editorial team.

To quote my EBM lecturer from last year:

Originally Posted by Jacque Rousseau

The most recent edition of Sax Appeal was certainly an embarrassment, in that it was both poorly written and edited, and also not very funny. What has caused most concern, however, is the alleged blasphemy the magazine contained.

As an atheist member of the UCT community, the material that has offended believers offends me too – simply because it was purely abusive rather than critical, and in being abusive has served only to further entrench dogmatism and intolerance on the part of religious folk, and hence to impede the progress of those who seek to promote a naturalistic worldview, free of superstition, at UCT and beyond.

A further consequence of this episode is that it has led senior members of the University’s administration to feel the need to offer grovelling apologies, where none should be necessary. Sax Appeal does not speak for the University, and the University’s administration should not be considered responsible for the actions or speech-acts of those who produced Sax Appeal.

Being offended is something we have to at some stage learn to simply live with, except (arguably) in the case of hate-speech, which this did not amount to. Instead of running to the Human Rights Commission, may I suggest that the offended parties first try to learn some lessons in tolerance from those of us who constantly have to drown out the metaphysical noise generated by the faithful?

My reason for quoting Mr R was because he summarised my sentiments more eloquently than I ever could. This also ties in nicely with my previous post on the ethics of humour. Sax Appeal is meant to be satirical and controvertial. The intent is not ill-conceived. If the editorial team was to remove all sensitive/offensive material, the entire magazine would be nothing but a skeleton.