Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, Jul 04, 2002

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Opinion - Accountancy
Columns - Account Speak

Drums of destiny

D. Murali

BIN Laden and his chums have disappeared from the headlines and what you have instead are stories about accountants and their antics. The eager public is able to stomach the Goliath-size scam that comes as the flavour of the day, and expects to see another bigger Cyclops-type rip-off the next day. Unfortunately, for the accounting profession, public expectations are being amply met, with bad news coming each new day with the regularity of Formula 1 cars at the finish line.

There they are wincing and smarting, bleeding and backing, from the wounds inflicted by rival firms, governments, critics, media, regulators and courts. Like the movie villains who lie in buckets of ketchup, and provide the missing links to the hero, cops and the spectators, explaining the untold story before kicking the bucket.

Perhaps, destiny is catching up with accountants. For ages, these bean-counters have been controlling the purse-strings in organisations, standing as a roadblock before any bill got passed, payment made or money sanctioned. The least popular chap in any office for the condescending look he gives through his soda-glasses, crucial signature he holds back when it comes to authorising something, impossible demands he makes when asking for evidence to substantiate a claim, and rude queries he throws at you to check as if you had acted mala fide when filing the travel bill.

Only the lucky few can boast of coming out of an accountant's cabin with their self-respect in tact, or that it didn't cross their minds to look for an absent revolver to finish off the pencil pusher. For all the self-righteousness that accountants are ever fond of projecting, it is rare to find one who doesn't oblige his boss even if it meant screwing up the accounting package to back-date vouchers or fiddle with heads.

A profession that had taken pride in citing bizarre Section and Rule numbers, taking analysis to illogical limits, and crowding the work-life with too many Standards, is now called a shady tribe. A stigma too difficult to wipe off.

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