We have had the auditors in at work this week.
If I don’t write another word, that should surely be enough to explain my choice of quote for this week . . . and also the tone of this post. Perhaps you should all run away now. You’ve been given fair warning . . . )
Apart from the angst the word ‘audit’ can generate, this shouldn’t have been a drama. This wasn’t our five-year ‘two-of-us-are-going-to-come-and-take-over-your-office-for-three-days-and-if-we-find-one-thing-wrong-we’re-going-to-shut-you-down’ kind of audit. This was supposed to be a mini three-hour ‘we-gave-you-some-funding-to-run-this-particular-course-and-we’re-just-going-to-check-whether-you-did-it-right’ audit.
We honestly weren’t worried. The course that was being audited had run at the beginning on 2015 so I could lay my hands on the paperwork without having to search through tons of box-files. A quick check revealed that everything seemed to be in order. There were enrolment forms and IDs, and receipts, and eligibility documents, and trainer notes, and copies of student coursework and workplacement evidence, and signed record sheets and copies of Certificates issued. It had been a successful course and everyone on the course had gone on to get jobs in the industry (which, by the way, was the purpose of the original funding). We were certain we were compliant.
(I have never been a fan of the word ‘compliance’. Dictionary.com defines the word as: ‘the act of conforming, acquiescing, or yielding; a tendency to yield readily to others, especially in a weak and subservient way; conformity, accordance in compliance with orders; cooperation or obedience’. Enough said really.)
The two auditors turned up, we exchanged pleasantries, handed over the files, and they then sequestered themselves away in a little office and shut the door. Why does a closed door always seem so ominous in these instances?
Five hours later my head had swelled to twice it’s usual size, my eyes had glazed over and my intellect had shrunk to the size of a pea. It seemed as if every time we turned around one of them had reappeared out of their self-imposed seclusion asking, ‘Where is this document?’ (in the files I gave you), ‘Where is the evidence for this?’ (on the usb-stick attached to the files I gave you), ‘and what is this?’ (it looks like a piece of paper with writing on it . . . )
I swear, after a while I became like Bart Simpson’s dog (Santa’s Little Helper). I could see their mouths moving but all I could hear was ‘blah, blah, blah. . .’
Don’t misunderstand me. There have to be rules. I understand that. The world runs on them. We have to be accountable. But . . . wow.
Anyway, I won’t bore you with all the details (I don’t have enough screen space anyway) and to cut a long (good lord, was it only 5 hours?) story short—
Joke: A woman went to the doctor who told her she only had 6 months to live.
“Oh my God!” said the woman. “What shall I do?”
“Marry an auditor,” suggested the doctor.
“Why?” asked the woman. “Will that make me live longer?”
“No,” replied the doctor. “But it will SEEM longer.”
—it appears that we did, indeed, have everything that was required, although ‘possibly not in the format we would have preferred it’. I am still not entirely sure what was meant by that. Does that mean there was too much? or too little? Please God, don’t let it mean they need more. If we have to store any more paper we are going to have to buy a bigger building. And if anyone out there feels the need to send me information on ‘going paperless’ —don’t. Just. Don’t. Because I remember the promises . . .
‘The Paperless Office is Coming’ (they said). There were Fanfares and Trumpets and Hallelujahs. Not only was it possible (they said)—it was indeed, inevitable. I was on board. Just imagine—nice, clean desks, all bright and shiny and clear of files, folders, faxes and other extraneous paper. No more rooms full of dusty filing cabinets and teetering towers of boxes containing every scrap of paper that ever passed through the office (“we’ll just keep a copy of that in case it comes back later to bite us in the bum …” ) Millions of trees saved from ink-soaked death . . .
It sure isn’t happening in the education sector. I seem to be constantly and irretrievably knee-deep in paper. Now, after many years (centuries, it seems) of working in offices I am more than adept at shuffling, stacking and filing it but, damn—if the paperless office is never going to happen, can we at least have a ‘less-paper’ office? Is that too much to ask?
Probably. I’ll just go and check with the auditors . . .
As you may have guessed, it’s been a long week. I have already given the Manager fair warning that I will do everything I can to get the paperwork in order for our next big audit (which, horror-of-horrors, I think is due next year), but I fully intend to have retired (run screaming from the building) before then.
So, until the Lottery Gods smile upon me (because, realistically, that is the only way I am ever going to get to retire before I am 90) I guess I will continue to do what we all continue to do. Keep a stiff upper lip . . . keep the nose to the grindstone . . . and continue to self-medicate with scads of chocolate and vats of red wine . . . .
T.G.I.F. people. T.G.I.F.