British Empire Article

Courtesy of OSPA

by David Hoskins
(Auditor, Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Southern Rhodesia and Zimbabwe, 1959-1987)
Serving in the Public Sector in
Central Africa from 1959 to 1987
Jameson Avenue
The initial boat trip from Southampton to Cape Town, and rail journey north to Salisbury was an adventure in itself. It was not long after arrival that I found the word 'auditor' to be some what different in meaning from the word 'accountant'. Initial training was almost wholly on-the-job. At that time work entailed checking and vouching information, casting and cross-casting totals, checking bank reconciliations, assisting with examination into stock and cash losses or fraudulent practices, and drafting audit observations or reports.

Many challenging, yet amusing, experiences arose: balancing beer hall stocks and cash, and verifying cash on hand from sales of liquid and bottled beers, was particularly onerous and time consuming. When not always able to count cash at one time, it was often a hazard to guard against the same cash being produced to the auditor more than once. In verifying bottled beer stocks, it often became apparent that bulk stocks on hand were far short of book balances, or such stocks had been diluted in the bottles themselves.

Because of a lack of sophisticated financial controls or banking facilities, large cash balances relating to temporary deposit accounts were held. The register entries, denoting balances on hand, were often manipulated and misappropriated by clerks. This was a 'sure-fire' area of fraud.

Serving in the Public Sector in
Central Africa from 1959 to 1987
Magistrate's Court
In offices such as the magistrates' court, revenue stamps were affixed to case histories to show that a fine had been paid. The stamps were supposed to be cancelled by rubber stamp. Often uncancelled stamps were uplifted from documents and old, previously used and cancelled stamps substituted from old court case histories.

During my formative years I travelled to many branch offices in remote locations. The word often got around that the auditors were in town. One was often required to be polite, tactful, and patient with staff, junior or senior, in one's work. An initial unsatisfactory welcome to an auditor sometimes revealed fraud or unsatisfactory control procedures. A lack of hotel accommodation often meant that the audit team had to stay with a senior official whose office would receive an unsatisfactory report - a difficult situation to handle.

The Federation was dissolved on 31 December 1963, and I opted to join the Southern Rhodesia audit office. My duties took on more responsibility thereafter, once a number of colleagues either joined the private sector or emigrated.

The years from 1963 to 1980 were very eventful. The unilateral declaration of Independence in November 1965 was initially traumatic, but from a job point of view the only work-change for me was to draw-up an audit plan to check controls and custodial procedures for the office set-up under the Treasury, to make advances to civilians who found their financial well-being threatened by financial sanctions imposed by the British Government over their overseas assets.

Serving in the Public Sector in
Central Africa from 1959 to 1987
Cecil Square
My audit assignment to the Treasury at this time involved overseeing the public debt and annual borrowings, auditing such data for inclusion in the annual Auditor-General's report, and involvement also in proof-reading the outcome of these statements - an onerous task in the years before computer technology became available.

In 1968 I was tasked with auditing our diplomatic mission in London. This was at a time of mutual suspicion between the political parties in Rhodesia and the United Kingdom.

Another noteworthy event at this time, in 1978, was my involvement in interviewing the first black auditors for appointment into the Audit Office. At this time I was in the senior ranks, involved in recruitment, advancement and promotion committees, and other human resources functions. In April 1980 Zimbabwe became an independent nation. I was once again to say goodbye to a number of colleagues who took early retirement. From Principal Director of Audit, I became Deputy Auditor-General. Before that, I carried out an audit of our London office again (1982), coupled with visits to embassies in Lisbon, Stockholm, Bonn and Brussels.

My last memorable occasion was to accompany the Auditor-General to the 1984 Commonwealth Conference of Auditors-General at Lancaster House in London.

On the home front, as Deputy Auditor-General I attended sessions of the Committee of Public Accounts. The Audit Office placed before the Committee memoranda on areas of improper financial conduct, fraud, waste etc. It was an important function of the Westminster-based parliamentary system adopted by Zimbabwe in its early days.

In July 1987 I retired from the Audit Office. Thereafter I remained in Zimbabwe working in the private sector as an internal auditor, until retirement in 2005. In November 2007 my wife Sheila and I left Zimbabwe, with great sadness. We both look back upon our lives in Africa as challenging, exciting and very rewarding.

British Colony Map
Central African Federation Map, 1960
Colony Profile
Southern Rhodesia
Originally Published
OSPA Journal 112: October 2016


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