“I can’t say if the decision to be Mr. Patis’ replacement was a blessing or a trial of faith. I have been under immense pressure to correct and explain the mistakes made by my predecessor”. Chike said covering his face with his hands and letting out a weary sigh.It was as if scales fell off my eyes. I saw the sadness in his eyes and the droop of his broad shoulders. Yes! My eyes were finally opened to see my husband’s pains.
“The past weeks have been very trying and difficult. I have blamed myself for allowing the allure of a bigger office and increased salary to cloud my judgment and decision on accepting that offer”., he went on, as he stared thoughtfully at the door that led to our children’s room.
“You know I always listen to my inner voice and think through before I take a decision”
“Chike, please take it easy on yourself, the blame game won’t help”. I finally spoke as I pulled my legs up, wrapping my arms round them. Against the sudden chill that engulfed me.
The obvious dept of his pains tugged at the strings of my heart and I wished I had noticed earlier. I wish had the answers he sought not suspicion and blames.
Mr. Patis was an average dark skinned Indian whose gap teeth became pronounced when he smiled. He was courteous and friendly. That is the memory I had of him from the last staff Christmas party.
He is an old version of handsome with a near bald patchwith scanty white strands of hair by the sides. The white hair and the crease of the skin round his neck and face were the only indicators of his age.
At that party, Chike had introduced him as a young man who had just clocked fifty years with a glint of humor in his eyes. “He is our chief financial director who oversees the efficient functioning of our finance directorate and most especially determines when our money comes home”! Chike laughed as he concluded his introductions.
“Mr. Patis had good work ethics but loved delegating tasks, even when the staff did not have the requisite capacity to handle them. This was his greatest undoing.” Chike shook his head and turned to look at my face.
“Bidem dear, did you know I felt uneasy the very first day I walked into the office assigned to me?”. A feeling I could not shake off”.
“The joy of having my own private space and an official driver did not disperse this creepy feeling. The numerous meetings and other on boarding activities that followed did little to ebb this too. My love, I wish I was able to discern and interpret what it was all about. I would have saved you and I the pressure and pains we are going through now”. He paused, shook his head again and continued.
It was by the second week, when the crux of my job had begun that I finally placed a hold on all the trepidation. As I audited each ledger and compared it with the payment receipts, vouchers and invoices, I noticed the discrepancies in our company’s financial records. Allocations were bogus, cash advances were not properly expensed, unusually high prices were quoted on invoices and it got approved. Ummh! It was like I was the one eyed man in a blind country.
At this point, I asked with brows knitted in thought – “How can this be possible in a company with clear cut controls as yours? Besides, how can an auditor not uncover this?”
“That beats me,” Chike replied.
“Mr. Patis most probably did closely supervise the staff that reported to him; especially with all the delegation he did. Also the company’s auditor did not do a thorough Job too.”
” What a slap to chartered accounting.” I slapped my hands in disgust. The distinguished profession of pride and integrity.
“Now I work tooth and nail to get the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) officials off our backs.” We can’t afford a scandal.
“What can we do?” I asked Chike as I cleaned my eyes with the back of my hands, licking my dry lips at the same time.
“Just pray God pulls us through in one piece,” he responded.
With this realization, I quietly left to set the table for dinner while he pulled off his work clothes and went for a bathe.
I heaved in relief as I walked into my kitchen, “how far my mind wondered. Am I so self-centered that I couldn’t notice the pain of my best friend and husband?” I asked aloud. “How on earth did I allow my mind to be a fertile ground for the wrong thoughts?” I blushed in shame.
I sat on a chair in the dining area with my head in my palms, drifting off in thoughts.
Chike’s gentle pat on my shoulder brought me out of my reverie, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you the table is set, am just ashamed of my insensitivity and outburst.”
Chike smiled and said – “its ok dear, I feel a lot better now that I have shared it with you”. This was followed by a tight yet tender and comforting hug, with a kiss on my forehead.
I looked into his eyes and said “I promise to be more sensitive and patience my love”.