Do numbers lie?

Published August 24, 2021, 12:02 AM

by Jullie Y. Daza


Jullie Y. Daza

To illiterates and innumerates alike, the universe is founded on numbers. The numbers that Ugas in Vegas beat out of Pacquiao after 12 rounds read 115-113, 116-112, and again 116-112.

Numbers are the foundation of a predictable world, specially when your profession is that of  accountant or auditor. Any difference between the two, now that the Commission on Audit is the new superstar on the scene after catching a slew of departments committing auditing mistakes? That our auditors can count to 67 billion and up, with decimal points and commas in-between, says something of the left hemisphere of their dyed-in-the-wool numerate brain.

The answer is plain when you hear it from Butch Valdes, CPA: “Accountant keeps the books. Auditor examines the books.” Yes, an auditor is an accountant. Whereas “an accountant is employed by the company, an auditor is an independent accountant hired by the company as mandated by law to examine proper recording of all its transactions.”

Private corporations hire auditors to report to their clients, shareholders, and owners what they need to know about the financial standing of their investment. In the case of our COA superstars, imagine them as a team of Sherlock Holmeses going over the government’s expenditures with a huge magnifying glass to catch an anomaly in spending. Spending is a sensitive issue because the agencies’ funds did not come from their hard work but from the people’s blood, sweat, and tears in the form of taxes. (You could say that “anomaly” in English sounds like “ano mali” (what’s wrong? in Filipino).

Accountants and auditors are guided by questions that sound like clichés: Do numbers lie? Do things add up? The following is a fictional conversation lifted from one of M.C. Beaton’s “cozy” mystery thrillers. “Did she have an accountant?” asked Hamish (the village cop). “Not as far as I know,” replied the murder victim’s solicitor, “she wouldn’t need one. She probably never paid taxes.”

Accountants are usually busy around taxpaying time.

Two other superstars who also work with numbers (but not taxes?) are Dr. Guido David and Edson Guido. As if they were born with a silver ruler in their mouth, they ably reduce those taxing, multidigit COVID figures to digestible facts, for which we thank them.