As my years in government IT have drawn to an early end and we’ve just had the UK budget I just thought I’d mark the occasion with a few comments upon accountancy which I have conluded from experience is one of the main reasons little in the system will actually change until that does. It is nothing personal against all the accountants I know and have known, and some I still consider friends, it’s just an attack on the dark art that obfuscates the potential for much real transformation, particularly in government.
An opinion piece in the Guardian a few years ago provides some background as to how the UK has permitted accountancy to take over the country, and to further confirm this, McSweeney, B. (2006). “Are we living in a post-bureaucratic epoch?” Journal of Organizational Change Management 19(1): 22-37. p.27, identified that the number of qualified accountants in the UK Civil Service increased from approximately 600 to over 2000 between 1982 and 2002, whilst the total number of civil servants had fallen.
But here on a lighter but (I hope) not too insulting note are some jokes I found some years ago and have made more politically correct:
What’s the definition of an accountant? Someone who solves a problem you didn’t know you had in a way you don’t understand.
What’s the definition of a good tax accountant? Someone who has a loophole named after them.
When does a person decide to become an accountant? When they realise they don’t have the charisma to succeed as an undertaker.
What does an accountant use for birth control? Their personality.
What is an extrovert accountant? One who, whilst talking to you, looks at your shoes instead of their own.
What’s an auditor? Someone who arrives after the battle and bayonets the wounded.
Why did the auditor cross the road? Because they looked in the file and that’s what they did last year.
How many kinds of accountant are there? Three kinds – those who can count and those that can’t.
How do you drive an accountant completely crazy? Tie them to a chair, stand in front, and fold up a map the wrong way.
If government wants to implement transformation and cost savings it only has to simplify the whole bureacratic way everything is costed, charged and calculated across government. This will be even more important if there is going to be successful implementaion of ‘cloud’ services.