Wednesday, February 20, 2008


It is busy times at our office in Dhaka. It is time for the yearly audit to take place. Last fall the Swedish "Riksrevisionsverket", a governmental institution, published results after an investigation into how Swedish NGOs canalize aid money to their partner organization. The investigation team looked at small organizations, rather than larger donor agencies. The report showed that many small NGOs have a hard time fulfilling the demands of the Swedish audit system. For me, being in charge of budget and book-keeping here at our office in Dhaka, the report pointed out issues that I learnt from and that we have taken into consideration in our work here. The report thus making this years audit even more interesting.

It is widely known that Bangladesh is a country with widespread corruption, within almost all spheres of society. My startegy is always to pretend that I simply dont understand when I have a feeling that someone wants a bribe. Actually it always works and I am proud to say I have never (at least intentionally) paid a bribe here.

But after a day with the audit guy I just had to ask. I was careful in adressing the question, afraid of being misunderstood. But I just had to ask how an audit firm in one of the most corrupt countries (even if I dont like that expression) in the world handles the issue of corruption. The answer was kind of interesting. When paying a bribe you somehow account for that under a head in your book-keeping called something like "business promotion" or "necessary fees". You show this figure to the audit firm and explains approximately whom you have paid and how much. The audit firm in its statement then mentions the head and adds that there are no verifications of these costs. In this way the audit firm has done its job in showing they have seen the figure and anyone interested in the audit (for us eg the NGO bureau who needs to clear us for further funding) can also understand that a certain sum can be accounted for without verifications. I guess the question remains of how you know if this sum is realistic or not. How do you know if it is just not a person within the company/organization who has put this "business promotion" in his/her own pocket?

Wonder what the Swedish "Riksrevisionsverket" would say regarding those "business promotion"/"necessary costs" heads in the accounts?


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