My tryst with auditing
The best experiences I carry with me are not the ones of direct connection with the job I did, but the many instances of confrontation, I happened to land with. Though none of these had anything to do with my primary job of maintaining aircraft, these had everything to do with other things that could have had a contributory effect.
One of the earliest instances where we had to exhibit qualities of leadership or management is when we had to act as 'divisional officers', where we need to provide all kinds of assistance to all those, who are assigned to each of us. One such occasion occurred when one of my subordinates injured himself. He at night. and in half asleep, (perhaps had one too many) went to relieve himself and happened to slip and fall in to the toilet. He got hurt, head hitting the wash basin, mirror etc, leading to prolonged hospitalization. In time, I had to raise an injury report for 'regularizing' this injury, a questionnaire. "Was the person in the performance of a duty, the non performance of which would have attracted penal action - Yes/No", and a few more of such questions. I answered "Yes" to the first one, and other questions also in such a way that this will get considered as an 'authorized' injury, permitting the individual to be treated at government expense.
Years later, when I was working in a different unit, I get a letter forwarded from the old unit with a remark "Please tell me how to answer the auditor's query, since you are the person who was here at that time". The query was about the above mentioned injury report, which read, "Please provide explanatory remarks in support of your answer 'Yes'". I think my reply was, "Had the individual not gone to the toilet to perform whatever was one's call at that time, it would have attracted disciplinary action".
The reply worked. And I liked the process involved in formulating a neutral reply to a rather vexing issue, and volunteered to 'draft' replies for such audit objections.
My interest in producing literary gems, in a working environment that is at home with relatively routine affairs, got kindled, when I was made the president of a BOI. For, every board of inquiry needs to have, in addition to the record of investigations done and, the conclusions and decisions produced as a result, comprehensive recommendations to obviate the possibility of the incident(s) occurring again.
I shall begin with my first experience, which happened during my initial training period. The incident in question was not very abnormal, I think. Our station had a piggery and poultry farm, which in that particular year incurred a loss. The amount of loss being more than what could have been 'regularized' locally, an inquiry was called for. The board, which was presided by VW Karve, an officer with a great sense of humor and brimming with self confidence, came to the conclusion that the loss primarily was caused by the disappearance of a large number of pigs during the recent bout of inclement weather, even though those responsible for running the farm did take necessary precautions.
Thereafter, interesting opportunities kept coming to me while carrying out various duties of aircraft maintenance. Sometimes it would be of loss of expensive machinery owing to transit damage, where, in the absence of a clear proof of failure of any particular agency, one needs to justify the occurrence of a loss. More often, it would a matter of under-utilization and rusting of very costly equipments due to things like bureaucratic delay, governmental shake-up, or shift in priority. Where, certain essential parts or facilities needed for incorporating such technology might not have been ready in time. Here, one has to paint it as a missing link, without making a specific blame. Since, none of the connected agencies would have been showing an identifiable instance of failure.
The comprehensive recommendations that forms the part of each report, I learned, is a place where effective, intelligent, and imaginative, remedies can be suggested for curing the prevalent ills. Each BOI being devoted to a specific instance of say, organizational failure, and members of each such board having expertise in different areas of failure, such recommendations can be seen as an effective cure for such ills.
I found this a fertile ground to let loose one's imagination and exercise one's linguistic talents, historical and philosophical acumen, and to produce documents to keep the decision-makers engrossed for days.
I also learned over time, any reply with a semblance of logic would have worked. Those making queries, do so, primarily, to justify and keep their significance intact and the organization relevant.