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Jobs for the kinky boys

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White


A media report this week revealed a very unexpected perk for US President Donald Trump – a special button on his Oval Office desk which, when pushed, (no, it’s not what you’re thinking!) immediately summons a butler bearing a glass of Coke. 

 

The President, it seems, has something of a sweet tooth and a penchant for fast-food.  It’s to be hoped that the button is polished to within an inch of its life and the glasses sparkle like new since Mr. Trump also famously suffers from a form of OCD where cleanliness is concerned.  He once distributed bottles of hand sanitizer to reporters at a press conference, refuses to touch lift buttons, and avoids shaking hands with people. He is especially palms-off with teachers, whose filthy desks, according to Mr. Trump, are a veritable cesspool of "17,000 germs per square inch."



The trait is one he shares with the late tycoon Howard Hughes. A renowned germaphobe in later life, Hughes had enough wealth to outsource his compulsive habits to employees. His compulsive rituals were delegated to servants who were forced to wrap his spoon handles in tissue paper and cellophane. Retrieving his hearing aid from the bathroom cabinet was a process that required no less than 45 tissues as well as a hand-washing with a brand new bar of soap. 

 



Hughes' mental illnesses worsened with age and toward the end of his life, he hid from public life inside expensive hotel penthouses and spent four months in a dim studio screening room where he subsisted on chocolate bars and milk and stored his urine inside the empty bottles. When he died in 1976 of kidney failure — triggered by a combination of dehydration and a daily diet of 20-30 aspirin — he was an unkempt and emaciated 94-pound billionaire without the presence of mind to even leave a proper will.



Such obsessions with cleanliness pale into insignificance when compared to the nineteenth century scientist and inventor Nikolas Tesla, the same man who gave his name to the modern electric supercar and who, in his time, invented the spark plug, the turbine aircraft engine and remote-controlled boats.  Apart from maintaining a lifelong feud with fellow inventor Thomas Edison, Tesla’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, quite pronounced in his later years, gave him a hatred of round objects and of hair and an obsession with the number three.

 

He was, at 6-feet 2-inches tall and 142 pounds, almost skeletally thin, and his dislike for overweight people caused him to fire a secretary who had put on a few extra pounds.  He never slept more than two hours at a time, sometimes saw blinding flashes of light accompanied by visions and last but not least he fell in love with a pigeon.

The late Apple CEO, Steve Jobs also had his fair share of what me might kindly call, er ‘quirky’. Jobs was famously weird about his eating habits and once reportedly ate so many carrots in such a short time period that his skin turned a vibrant orange. He would often eat only one kind of food for weeks and lecture his friends and family about the virtues of his current diet, only to abandon it for another obsession shortly afterward.

 

Jobs even claimed that his fruit-only diet made it necessary for him to bathe only once a week, a notion that may not have been shared by Apple employees.

By the end of his life, Jobs had even realized that refraining from food could induce periods of euphoria and would fast even when his ailing body required nutrition. 
His strangeness didn't stop with his diet, either.

 

Jobs' employees reported that he often demanded impossible amounts of work from them with little to no recognition of their physical or emotional limitations, simply refusing to take "I can't do that" for an answer. To be fair, he never balked at that kind of work himself, often staying up for entire days at a time coding. Jobs even worked himself literally into the ground, leaving four years' worth of product plans to Apple when he died in October of 2011.



But none of the above bosses and big shots can hold a candle to that of Michael Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, a company once in hot water for its beautiful bodies hiring policy.  Any large company may well be expected have a company policy and procedure manual covering the entire organisation to run to several dozen pages. A bit over-the-top, however, is a 47-page rule book by which employees assigned to Jeffries’ corporate jet must abide.

 

The "Aircraft Standards" set by Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Michael Jeffries for his Gulfstream G550 are not only merely oddly obsessive, but some actually border on that of a fetishist.

Exposed in the wake of an age-discrimination lawsuit filed in 2012 by the plane's former pilot, the Abercrombie jet bible mandates that attendants (often male models) abide by a strict dress code of Abercrombie polo shirts, jeans, boxer briefs, flip-flops, and the brand's cologne, spritzed periodically during the flight.

 

Unless the temperature dips below 50 degrees, outerwear is prohibited and though jackets are permitted, they are to be fastened at the "fourth button from the bottom," with the last button left open. â€¨â€¨Only when it comes to staffers' hands does Jeffries insist on formal dress. White gloves must be worn when setting tables for meals — with the exception of the flatware, which is to be handled with black gloves.

It gets worse.  Phil Collins' "Take Me Home" is the required soundtrack during boarding on all return flights, a five-point procedure is laid out for the seating of Jeffries' dogs, and one — and only one — response may be uttered by a crew member when responding to a request made by him or his partner, Matthew Smith: "No problem."

Er…..Actually shareholders in the company may like to consider that they have exactly that!

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Columns

Economic Resurgence Options: Is Export-Led Growth Tenable For Botswana?

22nd September 2020

The world in which we live is a criminally unequal one. In his iconic 1945 allegorical novella,  Animal Farm, a satire on the facetiousness  of the then Soviet Empire’s crackbrained experiment with a command economy, the legendary George Orwell in my view hit the nail squarely on the head when he said all animals were equal but some animals were more equal than others.

That’s the never-ending dichotomy of the so-called First World and its polar opposite, the so-called Third World as Orwell’s cleverly-couched diatribe applies as much to the tread-of-the-mill laissez faire economics of our day as it did to Marxist-Leninist Russia a generation back.

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Victory is Won

22nd September 2020

Israelites take Canaan under General Joshua

Even as the Nation of Israeli braced to militarily take possession of the Promised Land, General, its top three senior citizens, namely Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, were not destined to share in this god-conferred bequest. All three died before the lottery was won.

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Finance Bills: What are they about?

22nd September 2020

Financial Reporting (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and Accountants (Amendment) Bill, 2020 were expeditiously passed by parliament on Thursday.

What are these two Bills really about?  The Bills are essentially about professional values that are applicable to auditors and accountants in their practice. The Bills seeks to basically enhance existing laws to ensure more uprightness, fairness, professional proficiency, due care, expertise and or professional technical standards.

The Financial Reporting Act, 2010 (FRA) establishes the Botswana Accountancy Oversight Authority (BAOA), as the country’s independent regulator of the accounting and auditing profession. BAOA is responsible for the oversight and registration of audit firms and certified auditors of public interest entities.

In the same vein, there is the Accountants Act, 2010 establishing the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) which is responsible for the registration and regulation of the accounting and auditing profession. This consequently infers that some auditors have to register first with BICA as certified auditors, and also with BAOA as certified auditors of public bodies. So, the Bills sought to avert the duplication.

According to Minister Matsheka, the duplication of efforts in the regulation of auditors, which is done by both BICA and BAOA, creates a substantial gap on oversight of certified auditors in Botswana, as the two entities have different review procedures. He contends that the enforcement of sanctions becomes problematic and, thus, leads to offenders going Scot-Free, and audit quality standards also continue to plunge.

The Financial Reporting (Amendment) Bill, 2020, in the view of the Minister, brings the oversight and regulation of all auditors in Botswana under the jurisdiction of the Accountancy Oversight Authority and that Bringing all auditors within one roof, under the supervision of BAOA would therefore reinforce their oversight and significantly enhance accountability.

He also pointed that the Bill broadens the current mandate of the Authority by redefining public interest entities to include public bodies, defined as boards, tribunals, commissions, councils, committees, other body corporate or unincorporated established under any enactment.

This covers any company in which government has an equity shareholding. In order to enable the process of instituting fitting sanctions against violation of its provisions, the Bill clearly lays down acts and lapses that constitute professional misconduct.

This Bill further strengthens the sanctions for breach of the Act by public interest entities, officers, firms, and certified auditors. Reinforcing the law with respect to such sanctions will act as an effective deterrent for breach of the Act.

The Accountants Bill also strengthens the current mandate of the Institute by making it obligatory for those who provide accountancy services in Botswana to register with the Institute, and for all employers to hire accountants who are registered with the Institute.

The Minister reasons that in line with the spirit of citizen empowerment, this Bill proposes reservation of at least 50% of the Council membership for citizens. This, he says, is to empower citizens and ensure that citizenries play an active role in the affairs of the Institute, and ultimately in the development of the accounting profession in Botswana.

The Bills come at a point when Botswana’s financial sector is in a quagmire. The country has been blacklisted by the European Union. Its international rankings on Corruption Perception Index have slightly reduced.  According to recent reports by Afro Barometer survey, perceptions of corruption in the public service have soured and so is mistrust in public institutions.

Rating agencies, Standard Poor’s and Moody’s have downgraded Botswana, albeit slightly. The reasons are that there continues to be corruption, fiscal and revenue crimes such as money laundering and general unethical governance in the country. There are still loopholes in many laws despite the enactments and amendments of more than thirty laws in the last two years.

One of the most critical aspect of enhancing transparency and accountability and general good governance, is to have a strong auditing and accounting systems. Therefore, such professions must be properly regulated to ensure that public monies are protected against white color crime. It is well known that some audit firms are highly unprincipled.

They are responsible for tax avoidance and tax evasions of some major companies. Some are responsible for fraud that has been committed. They are more loyal to money paid by clients than to ethical professional standards. They shield clients against accountability. Some companies and parastatals have collapsed or have been ruined financially despite complementary reports by auditors.

In some cases, we have seen audit firms auditing parastatals several times to almost becoming resident auditors. This is bad practice which is undesirable. Some auditors who were appointed liquidators of big companies have committee heinous crimes of corruption, imprudent management, fraud and outright recklessness without serious consequences.

There is also a need to protect whistleblowers as they have been victimized for blowing the whistle on impropriety. In fact, in some cases, audit firms have exonerated culprits who are usually corrupt corporate executives.

The accounting and auditing professions have been dominated by foreigners for a very long time. Most major auditing firms used by state entities and big private sector companies are owned by foreigners. There has to be a deliberate plan to have Batswana in this profession.

While there are many Batswana who are accountants, less are chartered accountants. There must be deliberate steps to wrestle the profession from foreigners by making citizens to be chartered.  It is also important to strengthen the Auditor General. The office is created by the constitution.

The security of tenure is clearly secured in the constitution. However, this security of tenure was undermined by the appointing authority in many instances whereby the Auditor General was appointed on a short-term contract. The office is part of the civil service and is not independent at all.

The Auditor General is placed, in terms of scale, at Permanent Secretary level and is looked at as a peer by others who think they can’t be instructed by their equivalent to comply. Some have failed to submit books of accounts for audits, e.g. for special funds without fear or respect of the office. There is need to relook this office by making it more independent and place it higher than Permanent Secretaries.

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