Things aren't good. The board of directors is after blood. Nothing's been said yet, but everyone in the building knows what a visit from the auditors means...
They didn't go up to the executive offices first, which means they're primed with all the information they need. Someone's upset the top brass big time, and that someone, judging by the troop of 'yes-persons' laughingly referred to as my 'co-workers', can only be me. Or possibly the pimply-faced-youth...
I remember electronically signing up the entire board of directors to the mailing list of a seedy video parlour, but I hardly think that would qualify for all this attention.
The auditors are a 'good cop, bad cop' team who'd make a VAT inspector look like Mother Teresa.
I've got about a minute before they pay us a visit. So I dial up head office's router and start a packet sniff operation, and then configure some extra phone lines onto the voice recorder.
I've just finished when they arrive.
"This is a secure area," I call out, playing the dedicated worker to the full.
"Company auditors," bad cop sneers.
"You have some ID?" I ask, buying time until I can clear my screen.
Their pictures look rough enough, but I make a point of checking their ID photos under the magnifying lamp.
"They seem OK. Now, what can I help you with?" I ask.
"We're here to audit and inventory your equipment. You're to make yourself available until we've finished the audit."
"How long will that take?" I reply.
"As long as it takes," bad cop says.
Excellent. I write them up in the visitors' book, then swipe them through the door on my ID.
They potter around a bit calling out inventory numbers and making rude noises to themselves. I pass the time by listening to my latest voice recording on the headset. It only takes a few minutes of secretarial gossip to find out that someone noticed that one of our microwave dishes points at the middle of beancounter central instead of the sky. Mind you, it's not as if we're actually transmitting through it... Still, with the psychosomatic headaches and general illness it'll cause, I guess it's worth the hassle.
"OK," bad cop says wandering back in.
"According to our records, over the past year you have written-off as unserviceable; three televisions..."
"Ah, satellite reception monitors," I quickly interrupt, "very poor quality, yes."
"Two stereo video recorders..."
"CCTV recorders with dual audio channels, again, poor quality"
"A microwave cooker..."
"Short range microwave transmission test device."
"And 112 videos."
"CCTV recording media, yes."
"Bought from the Megastore?"
"At a good price."
"Blank media at 15 quid a piece?"
"Quality costs money..."
"Then why are the titles listed?"
"Invoicing error. Call them, I'm sure the Megastore's records say blank media. Now..."
"And you wrote them off?"
"Corporate secrecy requires us to destroy confidential media after three months..."
"Well, what about these multi-colour indicator lamps?"
"We use them all over the place..."
"Yes, well they could be anything... Hell, Christmas tree lights fit that bill."
Perceptive bastard really...
"I'm sure everything's in order," good cop says, in a manner designed to engender trust. No doubt the same form of trust that preceded the statement: "Watch my back Brutus." It can only mean one thing.
"Just one thing," bad cop asks, switching to pleasant mode. "You DO have the asset disposal forms, signed by your head of department and co-signed by the head of purchasing?"
Whoops. Things have turned a little grim for the home team.
"Because if you don't, you WOULD be liable for the loss of the assets concerned. With a current book value of about £5,000..." he says, savouring every syllable.
"Of course I do," I smile, indicating a huge pile of miscellaneous papers kept expressly for occasions like this. "In there somewhere. Sorry it's a bit of a mess."
While they wade through the pile, I look up the vehicle associated with the identification cards of our two friends, then e-mail the PFY his mission.
An hour later the auditors call it a day and wander off. The PFY and I follow suit, in time to witness another 'random' security check at the car park exit. We are both shocked and stunned to see a boot-sale-worth of 'written-off' equipment in our erstwhile auditors' vehicle, along with 30 or so 'asset disposal forms', blank but for an incriminating signature and co-signature.
"So that's where all our kit has been going!" I blurt in passing in case security has lost the plot, even after the anonymous tip-off.
Status quo returned, I offer to buy the PFY a beer to ease the cramp in his signing hand.
It's a tough life at the top - don't let people tell you otherwise...