In the workplace, it is easy to find oneself in a moral dilemma without even realising how you got there. 

The workplace – like a home – can be made up of various different facets. The industry, management, shareholders, colleagues and consultants all play a role in making up the culture you find yourself working in every day. A good fit often makes it a pleasure to wake up and go to work in the morning. 

With the volatile economy and ever-changing market place, organisations can easily find themselves in difficult situations. It is said when the end is near, all faculties of discrimination between right and wrong are lost. As an employee of an organisation, you may even find yourself being asked to pass an unusual journal without having being given an explanation or justification. When enquiring about it, you receive the cold shoulder. This results in profits being manipulated to display different results depending on the users they are being presented to. For instance, management accounts are adjusted to a loss-making position when used for tax purposes and adjusted favourable when show to the board or shareholders. You may be intimidated to speak to your business unit leader or CFO as they are the perpetrators and could cost you your livelihood. 

Alternatively you may be aware of a weak treasury control which allows for certain staff to steal funds without anyone else becoming aware. You know they are struggling financially and don’t want to cause a stir. Alternatively you know the CFO is enjoying the perks of the weak control too but there is no way to deal with this one as he is the primary decision-maker in your employment position. You also notice that the CFO and CEO never book their leave with HR when they take it. They however often have long accumulated leave owing to them paid out. 

You may also have become aware of a long time friend who is the head of procurement and obtains undisclosed kickbacks or that he negotiates embedded bribes in his purchase deals. You may receive instruction to write off inventory which you know has been sold but the funds pocketed. 

Over time, you gradually learn about all these events that take place at work. You suppress your initial inclination to be a whistleblower with the reasoning that the impact cannot be too big if the entity is still liquid. Salaries are still being received and even though VAT returns are manipulated to indicate a smaller than actual net payable amount, they still get paid on time. 

Creditors wait a bit longer than they should and are often given an excuse for late payment but avoiding those gets easier. 

The more you think about it as time passes, the harder you find it to stop thinking about it. You realise there’s a lot more going on than you initially realised. 

  • The Receiver of Revenue is being underpaid owing to fraudulent accounting.
  • Shareholders are losing out on their investment as a result of misappropriation of funds.
  • Bank covenants are not being met nor picked up by the bank, owing to manipulated reports.
  • The general leak of net profit causes the company to constantly break even or make losses which means salaries will never increase significantly as it will not be justified by the bottom line. 

Suddenly you realise that keeping silent about the antiques at work does not allow you to sleep at night even though you have done nothing other than follow orders. You always feel on edge due to the looming reality. 

You are unable to just accept thing any longer and ponder about doing something but stop yourself when you realise that you will be dismissed long before things come clean. Your last option is to leave but then you have the dilemma of not earning a salary with a family to support. 


Meenesh Hira CA(SA) – Audit Manager at Deloitte (Accountancy SA)