A Short Story about Corruption

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By Elizabeth Enoanyi Hoff 

Uncle Joe Blow was a jovial man; always in a good mood. He was employed as Comptroller at the Oil Company.  All the Company’s employees liked him because of the way he handled things in his office. Once in a while, he would give out “small, small things” from the petty cash box to other Company workers whom he considered his “good friends.” When paying out money to the Company’s consultants and other contractors he would always say, “the cash box has no right to sneeze, even though it holds all the ingredients for sneezing”,  meaning that he was only the keeper of the money and did not expect to receive kickbacks. He often said, “mind you, down here, we often get blamed for things we will never dream of doing.”

Sometime towards the end of August, Uncle Joe Blow decided to go on his annual leave; planning to go to his hometown in Clay-Ashland to rest himself. He was determined to enjoy his vacation. And so, right on schedule, Uncle Joe left Monrovia for upriver.  Right after his departure, the deputy comptroller took over and began to discover some strange things in the Company’s financial records.

Mr. Joe Blow, the Comptroller, had set up a crafty system for payments involving several accounts in different departments. Dates of disbursements were left out in some instances. All put together, the book balance reflected a “hefty” shortage of cash within six months.

On dealings with other organizations, the deputy comptroller came against calculations that discouraged him. Uncle Joe’s arithmetic represented some wrong doings.  The deputy comptroller recommended to the Company’s management that the auditors should be called in.  So, in came the auditors. Their findings were far more shocking than what the deputy comptroller had discovered.

Martu, the secretary in the Finance department, was present when the auditors came. She witnessed the seriousness of purpose with which they settled down — shifting the deputy comptroller and his chair and table into a corner, joining tables together for their convenience, and occasionally calling in a few employees for “chats”.

The auditors discovered that postings were back-dated. Bank statements were misquoted around the decimal points. They noted that the numbers of some cheques issued were out of sequence.  After of these findings, Management decided to keep things quiet until Joe Blow, the comptroller returned from his leave; but that was not to be.

As the situation would have it, Martu the Secretary went to her friend’s office a few days afterwards to visit. “What news?” the friend asked.

“Nothing much, o” Martu answered despondently. “The only thing is the general auditing going on at our office….It’s not easy, you girl…They have interviewed the staff… They are tracing everyone who could have access to the accounts section…I say, you girl, Joe Blow, our comptroller, is out… he is on leave.”

The friend’s boyfriend knew Uncle Joe Blow very well. She also shared the news with her boyfriend:  “They say twenty-two thousand liberty and thirty-five thousand US are involved. The Comptroller is on leave. Martu told me today at my office.”

And so, Joe Blow the comptroller never returned from leave, and the Company never went after him.  End of story. Sounds familiar?

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