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Hustings & Hustlings

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

I am really gripped with whole Brexit thing. For me it’s the ultimate story of high drama and intrigue. Ever since that referendum result was announced and my initial shock horror response and thoughts of ‘what have we done’ (yes, I am British), I have been hooked.

I remember Nigel Farage grinning like a Cheshire Cat saying “we have got our country back” when the referendum result was announced and thinking ‘what does that mean?’.  I have been watching ever since, still unsure and like all Brits, uncertain what is going to happen – deal or no deal.  2 years on it’s still anybody’s guess.  Such is politics I suppose.

I watched Teresa Mays lengthy Prime Ministers Question Time the other day and thought ‘my God, there’s a job that no one wants’. With Brexit I am afraid it is probably a bit like the devil you do and the devil you don’t. Watching the posturing and partisan shenanigans of defend and attack has been an eye opener to what it means to be a politician. Promises, lies, confusion, break ups – it’s all there and its why I would never have Theresa May’s  job for anything but then again I don’t suppose Mrs May would be queuing in line for my job if it became vacant.

I don’t think I could be a politician because of the cut throat nature of the job. You are always under scrutiny, constantly under attack, disliked by as many as those that like you and basically have no job security. It also requires you to play a game with invisible and unspoken rules. Is it only a specific type of animal which can survive in that environment – those with political savvy? You may define that as clandestine, conspiratorial and manipulative and you won’t be the first.  But aren’t these the very skills which you need in pretty much every workplace if you are to be successful?

If you consider today’s business world which is characterised by risk, volatility, change, uncertainty etc. then these are competences which everyone needs and for some management jobs are absolutely essential.  Samuel Bacharach author of ‘Get Them On Your Side’ says political savvy is “the ability to understand what you can and cannot control, when to take action, who is going to resist your agenda, and whom you need on your side.

It’s about knowing how to map the political terrain and get others on your side, as well as lead coalitions.” He adds “at every level, businesses need people who are willing to take action and who know how to create change—people who feel secure enough to take risks in an uncertain environment. Political competence gives them the skills to do just that.” All of the areas where, I am afraid, Mrs May is failing.

Are there any organisations where playing politics is not necessary to get ahead and get things done?  Now before you think that politics is not in your repertoire or knowledge bank, appreciate that we have all grown up honing those exact skills. From children, wielding our pester power, knowing whom to manipulate to get sweets and treats or how to conspire so that we could stay up late.  And what about all our clandestine behaviour, rule bending and cover-ups which reached fever pitch as teenagers, have we not been playing politics all along?  And all that we learned at home while growing up we have brought to the organisations where we work.

Playing politics needn’t be a bad word, even though it may be associated with thoughts of backstabbing, gossiping, sucking up to the right people etc. Knowing the unwritten rules of work may be essential in getting ahead. Don't reject the idea of playing the game because some people play dirty. You can get what you want ethically and professionally, if you learn the rules of your specific organization.
 

Sylvia Lafair of Creative Energy Options says all you have to do is learn the rules of being politically savvy at work and offers these basic pointers which in effect are a tabulated list of Samuel Bacharach’s political savvy summary:

  • Find the gatekeepers: Keep your eyes and ears open to find the real people of influence. Often, just like any game, you need to connect with the person who shuffles the cards. That may be the one who manages the calendar and decides who gets priority with the boss. It may be someone who drives the carpool to work. It may, believe it or not, be someone who caters the fun Friday lunches from the restaurant down the road.

 

  • Listen at the coffee maker: Gossip is not a bad thing. It is hardwired into us for safety and survival. Titbits of information can lead you to the right person to get all the facts that you may well need for your next career move. So, get your coffee and keep your ears open.
  • Know when to shut up: Tom Cruise is the perfect example of foot in mouth disease in the film "Jerry Maguire." This oldie but goodie shows the power of knowing when and how to speak your piece. His inability to read the rule book about the right time and place earned him an invitation to leave the company.
  • Build strategic alliances: it's not about numbers, and it's not about Facebook likes; it's about gathering your own Board of Directors who will keep you informed and who can introduce you to the people you need and want to know. Think quality and diversity.
  • Trust your instincts: Learn what pushes your buttons and what to do about it. You will stand out as a leader. People will turn to you and away from the pleasers, clowns and jerks at work. Not sure of yourself? Get a coach to help make the invisible visible.


One last thing, you’ll need which is not on that list  and that’s  a very thick layer of skin.   Mrs. May’s would surely make a rhinoceros proud!
 

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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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