Bringing Good Business Practices to Sierra Leone
I emphasized it is important that there be a separation of duties between the people with access to the cash and those who kept the records. This wasn’t popular at first because most of the organizations were small, but I explained that only with a separation of duties was it possible to build trust in the integrity of the financial system.
The next day, as people began arriving, I noticed they didn’t socialize quite as much as they had on the other mornings. Several were sitting alone and I noticed that they had their ledgers out and were checking their numbers. Others were sitting in groups of two or three checking answers with one another.
We gathered as small groups. I asked the “treasurer” of each group to count the “cash,” and I asked the “accountant” of each group to check the ledger balances. Then I asked each small group to report their results to the larger group. The excitement was palpable as each group discovered that the “treasurer” and the“accountant” agreed and cheers and laughter filled the room.
In five days, we touched on principles of financial accountability, criteria for selecting financial managers, basics of financial accounting, auditing, and budgeting. They began to understand that their churches, schools, hospitals, and other organizations could begin to address the distrust issues that had arisen through years of mismanagement.
On the last day of the Institute as I concluded my lecture, the group broke into applause. I don’t have definitive evidence of this, but I suspect it may have been the first time in history that an accounting class concluded with applause.
Learning about the principles of financial management and accountability will not transform the society of poverty-strickenand war-ravaged West Africa. But, perhaps as people begin to take charge of their own lives and destinies, long-term change can occur.
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