‘O you who believe be conscious of Allah and be with those who are true in word and deed. (Quran 9:119)
Truth and honesty are interlinked. What is honesty? Included in the package is: morality, trustworthiness, fairness, righteousness, honour, reliability and decency. This beautiful saying encapsulates what honesty is: ‘For honesty to be complete, it must exist in three things. It must exist in the heart as one’s faith, it must exist in the intentions behind one’s deeds, and it must be present in the words that one speaks.’
It goes further honesty covers a wide range of noble and desirable traits. These traits cover telling the truth, sincerity in what we say and what we do, and in our work, carrying out our duties, fulfilling one's word, not making judgements or conclusions on others without knowing the truth. It is the opposite of lying, of cheating, of hypocrisy, of favouritism, and of lies and deceit. Honesty comes in two forms one is external and the other is internal.
As Muslims, firstly, we have to be honest and sincere in our relationship with Allah. We must recognise the fact that Allah is ever watchful of what we do. We can achieve this by making it our main objective to attain Allah’s mercy. If we are constantly and consciously aware that Allah is ever watchful over us. This will make us feel too shy to willingly disobey the laws of Allah.
We must always be cognizant of the fact that Allah is ever watchful of what we do. We have to inculcate that internal honesty and always remember that we usually judge it ourselves, but we must always remember that the Almighty watches over us and knows all the secrets of the heart and is the final Judge. ‘..….for He knows well the secrets of all hearts…. And He knows all that you do……. for He is with His servants well acquainted and ever watchful. (Quran 42: 24- 28)
There must be a sense of humility and shame that we must feel before Him. If we truly want to be honest in our relationship with Allah, we must become so fully sincere to Him that there remains in our hearts no other motive for what we do but to seek His pleasure and Blessings. We can achieve this by making our greatest concern the attainment of Allah’s mercy. We must be constantly aware that Allah is ever watchful over us. This will make us feel too shy to ever willingly disobey Allah.
Allah commands the believers, saying: “O you who believe, fear Allah and be among those who are honest.”‘If he be a liar on him is the sin of his lie….then will fall on you something of a calamity……Allah does not guide one who transgresses and lies’ (Quran 40: 28) Taking it to another level we have to ensure that we are honest with other people is also of extreme importance. There are many aspects to this as well. First, we must be honest in our interaction and dealings with others. We should not behave deceptively and present a false face to people. Instead, we must be genuine and straightforward with people as much as possible.
We must be honest in what we say. This requires from us to be careful to ascertain the truth of the news that we hear before we go ahead and pass it on to others. The Prophet (pbuh) said: “It is enough to make a person a liar that he tells others everything that he hears.” We must be honest in giving advice to people. We should be sincere in our advice and truly do our best to help people avoid misfortune and attain what is good for them.
We need to be even more honest with our spouses. We must be able to confide in them and speak freely to them about our concerns, our secrets, and our ambitions. A husband or wife is a life partner, a friend, a confidant. The more openly a husband and wife are able to communicate with each other in an atmosphere of trust and confidence, the stronger their relationship will be.
Honesty, without doubt creates inner strength on every level. On the personal level, it provides integrity, self-worth, and inner strength. On the social level, strengthens our dealings because it lends depth and substance to our relationships with other people. On the spiritual level, it brings about the sincerity to our Lord that is the key to our salvation.
The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Honesty leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to Paradise. A man remains honest and concerned about honesty until he is recorded as an honest man with Allah. Lying leads to sinfulness and sinfulness leads to the Fire. A man keeps lying and remains partial to lies until he is recorded as a liar with Allah.”
Further he said: “There are four characteristics, whoever has all of them is a true hypocrite, and whoever has one of them has one of the qualities of a hypocrite until he gives it up: when he is trusted, he betrays (the trust); when he speaks, he lies; when he makes a promise, he breaks it; and when he disputes, he is vulgar.”
There are many verses from the Quran and the teachings of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) that guide us: “And mix not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth while you know.” (Quran 2: 42). And: “O you who believe, why do you say what you do not do? It is loathsome indeed with Allah that you say what you do not do.” (Quran 61: 3)
Truth in word is the most familiar and obvious kind of truth, since every statement that varies with reality could obviously a lie. Allah says: “Verily those who fabricate a lie against Allah will not find success.” Allah gives glad tidings to the believers who are honest. He says: “Allah will reward the honest people for their honesty.” Allah informs us that our honesty will bring us good even in this world: “And when a matter is resolved upon, it would be best for them if they were true to Allah.”
And of course, honesty will be of doubtless benefit to us in the Hereafter. Allah says: “This is the day that the honest and truthful people will benefit from their honesty.” (Quran 5; 119) Nowadays there is a great deal of dishonesty; be it in our own lives, in the lives of others, in the world of business and in politics both internationally and locally. Honesty penetrates to the innermost fibre of a society and of a person; when our inner being is in harmony with our outer self. A person’s deeds are honest only when he practices what he sincerely believes in. Dishonesty in deed is more shameful than dishonesty in word, for it is nothing but a false display of sincerity
The bottom line is if we truly want to be honest in our relationship with Allah, we must become so fully sincere to Him that there remains in our hearts no other motive for what we do but to seek His pleasure. This must create an inner sense of humility and shame that we must feel before Him. Quran says: ‘Therefore do I warn you of a fire blazing fiercely; none shall reach it but those unfortunate ones who give lie to truth and turn their backs. But those devoted to Allah shall be removed far from it’. (Quran 92: 14 – 17)
Even the Bible says: “He that speaketh truth showeth forth righteousness.” Proverbs 12: 17 Remember: If you plant honesty, you will reap trust; if you plant goodness, you will reap friends. If you plant humility, you will reap greatness. If you plant perseverance, you will reap contentment; If you plant consideration, you will reap perspective; If you plant hard work, you will reap success; If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation; If you plant faith in Allah, you will reap a harvest; So, be careful what you plant now; it will determine what you will reap later. Whatever You Give To Life, Life Gives You Back.
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.
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.
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.