Sometimes auditing is about more than financial information and reports. Sometimes it is about life and death.
That was one of the lessons from a hard-hitting article in AB magazine recently, which describes the challenges faced by the global vaccine alliance, Gavi. This wonderful and deeply humane organisation faces a daunting task: to allocate scarce anti-Covid resources to countries urgently seeking the medicine and medical equipment their people need.
It was uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time. On the one hand, the work of the professionals who devote their careers to the cause of public health worldwide is inspiring. On the other, it is frustrating to watch their efforts hampered by the greed and short-sightedness of others.
The expertise of auditors is the best assurance that limited supplies of vaccines are used in the fairest way
Greed and short-sightedness
Greed, because some nations have proved too willing to talk about ‘our vaccines’, and to use their buying power and political might to corner the market. And short-sighted, because their selfish actions fly in the face of the truth that a mutating virus means that until everyone is safe, nobody is.
As the article made plain, skilful auditing is crucial in the work of Gavi because the expertise of auditors is the best assurance that limited supplies of vaccines are used in the fairest and most efficient way. And this auditing process is proving effective.
The article reports that close to 1.9 billion doses of vaccine will have been delivered by December 2021, with a further billion doses to follow by July 2022.
As an accountant who has worked my whole life in public health, those results give me so much pleasure. I know just how difficult it can be to work in a senior finance role when spending decisions have consequences that exceed the financial.
Being held to account is one of the fundamentals of a fair society
I served as chair of the audit committee at Royal Papworth Hospital, the site of the world's first successful heart, lung and liver transplant, in Cambridgeshire, England, for seven years. It involved difficult decisions, which balanced the qualities of compassion and patient care with value for public money and the good of society.
Similarly, I was chief executive at St Elizabeth Hospital, Suffolk, in England, which cares for terminally ill patients and their families. Again, the role required immense delicacy to weigh mercy with value for money.
Through it all, the teams I worked with relied on the discipline and dedication of skilled auditors to make sure that our stewardship of public health was carried out with respect for the public good. Being scrutinised and held to account is one of the fundamentals of a fair society, and we accountants have a role in that. It is part of developing the profession the world needs.
I am so proud to know that all our ACCA members, all over the world, are equally dedicated to serving society and their community, regardless of the sector or industry in which they work.