Money, religion and sex

Tool 55 of 104 is to act with integrity

‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money’, Luke 16:13

What is your profession? Why did you choose it?

Growing up with grandpa helped me experience first hand the elusiveness of money. Money was so scarce that earning it came after so much hard work.  With hindsight, such experience helped us to become competitive as I am able to focus on the issues at hand without quitting. The daily routine was not easy especially during the holidays. Start early by going to the garden. By 9 am, you are retiring with a basket full of harvested cassava and potatoes. Without resting, you pick a jerrycan and off you run to the well to fetch water. As you return, you rest the jerrican to collect some firewood and carry it along. As the adults sit to relax, you rush to the kitchen to boil water for morning tea – ‘ekikangabarwaire’ that is the ‘the tea that scares the sick people only’. Then you help the elders to prepare lunch as you clean the house and the compound. You may be sent for errands. You get the idea.

Previously: To learn so as to be empowered

I grew in an entrepreneur family. Mom operated a small restaurant and bar. Grandpa too operated a small bar at his home. On weekends, I would be stationed at Mom’s restaurant. Cooking food and tending to customers. Some Sundays the customers would be so many that knowing what to give back as balance would be tough. But I would handle. Not until I was asked to stand in as a taxi conductor while in Hoima doing some research work during my senior six vacations and was put at the front line. Ten of us were to be taxi conductors for a day to appreciate the risks and work challenges they go through to help inform the taxi operations policy. It was not easy. On the first journey, a passenger handed to me Ugx. 10,000 for a journey of Ugx. 500. I did not have the change. He did it intentionally so as to get out of the taxi without paying, since he would not surely, leave with me his Ugx. 9,500 for a fare of Ugx. 500! I got to learn that such was one of the common schemes even nicely dressed people used to cheat conductors. The bad news is for a whole day, the salary of a conductor would be Ugx. 1,000.

Now if you fail to collect from two customers, you return home empty-handed! That is what lack of integrity does to some folks. The person committing the fraud is oblivious of the impact on the victims. And that is how many people find themselves so hopeless to get to the next day. Life is tricky indeed.

That is how I got to learn about accounting as people who help balance books of accounts for businesses. Mom’s village restaurant remained small despite the much sales we made. We did not understand the concept of income, expenditure, profit, and loss. You buy a chicken at Ugx. 15,000. Get 13 pieces, mix with salt, tomatoes and onions. Then cook rice, matooke, millet bread and potatoes (some from our garden). Serve a great fresh meal at just 2,000 to about 10 people and eat the three remaining pieces and leftovers. Because we would usually get back enough to buy another chicken, we would be excited about the business without having considered the cost of food, labor and administration – a perfect not-for-profit outfit without any external donors.

One day, one of the local school teacher enjoyed great chicken, drunk a glass of the local liquor, and in his stupor, he decided to open up. “I never eat chicken at home.” It is cheaper here. I would rather bring my family and we eat – the best and cheapest chicken there is.  He did the calculations for my mother and explained clearly how our pricing was wrong. He said, “your son should become an accountant and save you money.” It never got out of my head.

And today I am a CPA – a Certified Public Accountant. But that is not it, I am one of the best accountants since I have a strong understanding of finance, governance, strategy, and technology. Over the years, I have learned a lot about the value of integrity – what one does when they know no one is watching or will ever notice. When we go out of our way due to greed or self-aggrandizement, our actions affect so many innocent victims in a pervasive manner.  May God bless you with ethics and integrity to not abuse your position of responsibility and your profession at the expense of the society you are supposed to benefit.

Copyright Mustapha Bernabas Mugisa, 2019. All rights reserved.

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