Saturday, 27 October 2012

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

The story of Ali Baba and the forty thieves was introduced to me through the movie starring P. Ramlee, a very influential legend who managed to touch many of our hearts through the musical instruments that he played, his songs and movies. When I was in Australia in the 80's, whenever I visited the Malay communities who came from Christmas and Cocos islands, P. Ramlee songs and videos could be heard and watched without a miss. That indicated how far his reach is.

Many Malaysians will remember the casual jokes which signify most movies starred by P. Ramlee. While we laugh at the scenes in these movies, subtly P. Ramlee  educates us of the many funny things that we do seriously. We could have been laughing at ourselves but camouflaged by characters played by him and his friends such as S. Shamsuddin and Aziz Satar.

The film Ali Baba Bujang Lapok is the P. Ramlee's version of one of the 1001 Night stories. It is about an honest man, Ali Baba, who became rich after he stumbled upon the treasures of the 40 thieves. I am sure many of us are familiar with the story.

What excites me about the P. Ramlee version of the story is how he portrayed the characters of the 40 thieves themselves, mainly from our society's perspectives. 

Organised and disciplined, the thieves lived among themselves with the belief that what they were doing was the right way of earning an "honest" living. They were paid monthly salary, entitled to weekend breaks and got their salary deducted if they did not perform as instructed. They sang and laughed amongst their own company, reinforcing their values onto themselves. The more the wealth they accumulated from their mischievous act, the deeper they sank in the world of thieves and crooks. Off course the chief thief was the most honourable and respected amongst all of them!

The respected and honourable Chief Thief
Unfortunately, while we laughed at the thieves in this movies, how many of us in the society who are doing the same? Those who abused powers which were bestowed upon them resulting in filthy wealth could be in the same group as the thieves in this movie. However, as also portrayed by the movie, wealth could earn one the respect of the society. This also happened to Ali baba. Nobody seemed to be bothered about the sources of his wealth, but his life changed and became more honourable when he spend the wealth obtained from the thieves. The only person that was concerned about this was his brother Kasim Baba. Even, his concern was not about the sources and legitimacy of the wealth but how he could get it himself as well.

So, during this long break, we could use this opportunity to reflect on the values that we belief and share so that when we watch other P. Ramlee movies, we are not laughing at ourselves and our society!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Farewell Sermon

Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) delivered his last sermon (Khutbah) on the ninth of Dhul Hijjah (12th and last month of the Islamic year), 10 years after Hijrah (migration from Makkah to Madinah) in the Uranah Valley of mount Arafat. His words were quite clear and concise and were directed to the entire humanity.
After praising, and thanking Allah he said:

“O People, lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and TAKE THESE WORDS TO THOSE WHO COULD NOT BE PRESENT HERE TODAY.
O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your LORD, and that HE will indeed reckon your deeds. ALLAH has forbidden you to take usury (interest), therefore all interest obligation shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity. Allah has Judged that there shall be no interest and that all the interest due to Abbas ibn ‘Abd’al Muttalib (Prophet’s uncle) shall henceforth be waived…
Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.
O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.
O People, listen to me in earnest, worship ALLAH, say your five daily prayers (Salah), fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat. Perform Hajj if you can afford to.
All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.
Remember, one day you will appear before ALLAH and answer your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.
O People, NO PROPHET OR APOSTLE WILL COME AFTER ME AND NO NEW FAITH WILL BE BORN. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the QURAN and my example, the SUNNAH and if you follow these you will never go astray.
All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness, O ALLAH, that I have conveyed your message to your people”.
 (Reference: See Al-Bukhari, Hadith 1623, 1626, 6361) Sahih of Imam Muslim also refers to this sermon in Hadith number 98. Imam al-Tirmidhi has mentioned this sermon in Hadith nos. 1628, 2046, 2085. Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal has given us the longest and perhaps the most complete version of this sermon in his Masnud, Hadith no. 19774.)

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Red Warriors Secured the Treble

I have been watching Kelantan soccer matches since I was small. Those days there were no live telecast and the only way for you to watch a live match is to be present at the stadium, Stadium Sultan Mohamad IV. A far as I could recall, the support given by the fans had been overwhelming even in those days. 

Further, true to their colour, Kelantanese are essentially passionate folks. Their display of passion could also be intriguing, crazy to others who love to hate the people from this part of the world. I remember a Malaysian Cup semi final match against Perak when the fans were unhappy with the decisions of the referee. When Perak scored a goal, the pitch was invaded. The Federal Reserve Unit had to fire teargas and that was the first time I experienced how does it feel when your eyes get into contact with such gasses. Luckily those days they did not have the idea of using stinking water to disperse riots. A re-match was held at the same stadium and Kelantan won 4-1. 

The ups and downs of the Kelantanese soccer is not that different from other teams. It is also common in Malaysia to get politicians to be involved in the leadership of soccer. It works both ways. Politicians are supposed to bring in the money and soccer is supposed to give them visibility and popularity. Given the state of politics in Kelantan, this makes it more explosive at times. By the way, in as much people may credit the Kelantan state government for the present state of Kelantan's soccer, the team is actually managed and inspired by Tan Sri Annuar Musa, who is from the other side. It would be interesting how this will be played up leading to the next general election.

By beating the Armed Forces last night, Kelantan or The Red Warriors has secured the treble, after winning the Super League and the FA Cup. Certainly a great achievement, this is also something that is interesting as Annuar Musa is also an outcast of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM). Given the not so great state of Malaysian soccer, such a paradox should trigger a different thinking on how this sport should be managed to ensure the fans who had been supporting the game would get a reasonable return on their continued support all this while.

Watching Kelantan winning the Malaysia Cup last night certain provided me with a sense of satisfaction. Given the potential and commitment of the players, being the super King of Malaysian soccer is certainly a position which the fans would be proud of. Hopefully, this is not the summit but just a small plateau towards higher peaks.

Congratulations to The Red Warriors and everybody that had been involved in bringing this team to where it is today!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Enhancing Audit Quality


"Findings from the Audit Oversight Board indicate that further effort is required to enhance the quality of auditing,” remarked Nik Mohd. Hasyudeen Yusoff, Executive Chairman of the AOB during the recent National Accounting Educators Symposium (NAES).

“But how do you define quality? Understanding of quality differs between one client and another, and between firms,” he continued.

Championing audit quality is a key task for the AOB. According to Nik, one reason the AOB exists is because every time anyone picks up the financial report of any corporate entity, they should feel confident about the quality of the auditor’s report. As part of initiatives to heighten audit quality, jurisdictions worldwide are taking action to tighten audit regulations; likewise, Malaysian law requires the AOB to ensure auditors comply with standards in arriving at their audit opinions. Meanwhile, the onus is also on the auditing profession to improve quality. “The auditing profession owns the auditing space, and should make it their mission to protect stakeholders who are dependent on the information contained in auditors’ reports,” said Nik.

To help achieve its vision of enhancing audit quality, the AOB has been granted extensive powers. It has tools at its disposal to remedy breaches of professional practice, and can even impose fines of up to RM500,000 on errant firms.

The AOB collaborates regularly with other regulator y regulating bodies locally and abroad, such as Thailand and Singapore. “When you talk about audit regulations, it goes beyond the domestic environment,” said Nik. “Auditing is regional and affects many other aspects of business as well. Professionals are always accountable; more so in the field of auditing. If the accountant prepares a good financial statement but the auditor doesn’t do a good auditing job, the financial statement may not be credible.”

When inspecting a firm, the AOB takes many factors into consideration. One key factor is the tone from the top. Audit firms must constantly juggle between business profitability and audit quality. Profitability shouldn’t undermine quality. Enforcement of quality measures is another aspect – for example, what action has the firm under audit taken against an under performing partner?

The increase in cross-border business is also giving rise to more complex issues, such as compliance with multi-jurisdictional regulations. A firm should also understand its own capacity and limitations when pursuing cross-border business so quality is not impaired. “In most cases, the firm’s resources are stretched, and audit partners may already be servicing several clients – unlike in the EU and US.”

Nik acknowledged that Malaysian audit firms faced many challenges, among them the high staff attrition rate and the overall increase in complexity of the business environment. Nik urged audit firms, especially those training young professionals to enter the accounting industry, to “Apply professional skepticism liberally! Business today is more complex than it has ever been. We face high-level issues which are hard to appreciate or analyse, but we need to fully understand how to approach them. If you look at the complexities faced by auditors today, you will find a major shift from the way things used to be done before. Even so, most audit failures still indicate a failure in the basics of auditing. So you have to keep an eye on quality, not quantity.”

To ensure quality audits in this complex landscape, what is required today is auditing talent that is thinking and engaged. It was worrying to note, he said, that many firms claim they cannot do a good job because of the lack of appropriate talent despite the millions spent on education every year by the government! “Students need to be nurtured with knowledge and skills to understand key principles underlying accounting and auditing standards so that they can apply them in various circumstances,” said Nik. “But students and firms also need to be aware of the necessity to develop the ability to think and identify problems.”

To remedy quality concerns, the AOB is coming up with the Remediation Framework, which encompasses nine points under serious consideration. These are: Firm Structure, Policy and Procedures; Audit Methodology; Training; Human Resources; Effectiveness of EQCR role; Communication; Monitoring Quality; Engagement Review Deficiencies; and Performance Measures for Remediation.

So far firms are responding positively to the findings of the AOB and have provided the AOB with their plans to enhance audit quality. Some are seeing this as opportunities to manage their business risks and it is totally sensible for them to follow through with their remediation plans seriously.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Basic Needs

We take many thinks for granted, especially those accorded on us by god such as health and happiness. Many pursue wealth because it is associated with being able to get many more things that we want. Sometimes is pursuing wealth, the first casualty would be our health or we could also lose our happiness. We work long hours, have to ensure stress, can't provide enough quality time for our family, etc, etc.

If one of our close family members fall sick and we accompany them to private hospitals, we would start to realise the nexus between wealth, health and happiness. Under that circumstances, the utmost thing that we wish for will be the fast recovery of our kin. Money has less meaning. However, the first question that will be posed to us at the registration counter after our personal details are taken would be the mode of settlement. Cash, insurance or settlement by employers. It really struck you that in one way or another, money matters when someone is sick.

This does not mean that there is no basic safety net in terms of healthcare in Malaysia. The trade off would be time as we may need to wait a lot more longer for treatment, something that could also means life or death although access to treatment is normally prioritise according to risks at government hospitals. Just by the number of people who need to rely on this baseline care (even if we minus illegal immigrants who rely on the same system as well), the waiting time could be fairly challenging.

So, in this circumstances, as much as we hate money, it does matter. In fact, if our loved ones are cured, certainly we will be happy.

We may be the lucky ones who do not worry about all these issues but just imagine many others out there who have not medical cover or savings in case of needs. Should we forget them as we don't even have their faces in our minds? 

An interesting issue indeed!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

A Day At A Fish Farm

An invitation to have lunch at a fish farm is not something that we get frequently. Having had one, I did not want to miss the opportunity to know more about this venture apart from having fresh grilled and fried fish for lunch with a number of close friends. So, I went to Raub, around half-an-hour drive away from Kuala Lumpur to honour the invitation from a friend.

Thousands of Talapia being fed
With a growing population, the demand for fresh fish will never go down. I suppose this was the opportunity that was seen by the owner of this fish farm in Raub, Pahang. The farm breeds mainly Keli and Talapia, among the popular fish in Malaysia.

To create a niche, the fish are only feed with pallet-based food, no leftovers. The fish are moved into a number of ponds, land-based and cement-based, to ensure the quality of the fish. Before the fish are harvested, the cement-based pond would ensure the land-based taste is removed, leaving a pure fish-taste for the consumers to enjoy.

The final cement-based ponds
However, such venture is also exposed to certain risks such as water pollution, attack by bacteria and even electricity failure as the fish will not survive long if the oxygen supply is cut. Perhaps, such risk factors deter many entrepreneur from going into fish farming in a big way. On the other hand, those who are brave enough to venture in this business would over time able to manage and mitigate most of these risks and would be rewarded with reasonable returns.

If an entrepreneur goes into a venture without the willingness to take risk, then the person should not be an entrepreneur in the first place. Over reliance on assistance from setting up, operation and marketing would not be helpful. By nature, profit is the result of risk taking and once this is forgotten, the whole entrepreneurial journey is worthless. Off course if one goes into a business because of favour when the business is just a conduit for transfer of wealth from public coffer to individual coffers, then it is a different story all together.

For fish farming, the understanding of market is important as the longer the fish are kept in the ponds, the higher the production cost would be and margins could be eroded easily. In our context how many times have we heard producers demanding for the government to be the guarantor in buying their produce? These people are not real entrepreneurs or they were groomed to be people who are pretending to be in business just to clock in KPIs for relevant agencies. How much more faking do we need when we are competing with more efficient economies? 

At this time of the year the farm is also the host for migratory birds from Europe. Sensing our presence, the birds flew across the farm in many formation, as if they want to provide us with a free performance. If well documented and promoted, this could also be another tourist attraction for Raub and even Malaysia.

A formation-flight by migratory birds from Europe

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Many Birds of London

In additional to historical structures and modern skyscrapers, London has another attraction, at least in my view. In many of the gardens which are well kept around Westminister, there are many birds and other native animals which could be easily spotted by visitors. You could also spot them when walking along the River Thames.

Here are some of them.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

A Morning Walk Along The River Thames

A visit to London would not be complete unless one visits the River Thames, the longest river in England. Although London is a modern cosmopolitan city with many modern buildings and structures, a walk along this river provides us with interesting insights on the British past and present.

The fact that one is able to walk along this river reflects how much the British are able to conserve and preserve meaningful assets to be appreciated, not only by their future generation, but also for the world to appreciate. 

This conservation culture is different from some other societies where people with influence will try to seize whatever opportunity to modernise the landscape by replacing old buildings and structures with the new ones which cost millions and lately billions, in whatever applicable currencies. Worse, every single space is open for grab, resulting in nothing left for the society  to enjoy. This is modern life, so they claim. 

The London Eye
The Big Ben
A form of new British culture!
An old navy ship, preserved
Even tree can look like an art work
A lonely seagull wondering about the future
Solar-powered bridge under construction
Interesting old building, well preserved
One of the many churches in London
Old railway office and a new building tower
The famous Tower bridge

AOB Forms Official Collaboration

KUALA LUMPUR: The Audit Oversight Board Malaysia (AOB) has formed an official collaboration in audit oversight with the Japan Financial Services Authority and the Certified Public Accountants Audit Oversight Board.
The collaboration was signified through an exchange of letters held at the side of the International Forum of Independent Audit Regulators plenary meeting in London on Oct 3, the Securities Commission (SC) said in a statement.
“In view of the global nature of business, the quality of financial statements and audit is determined by work performed in more than one country,” AOB executive chairman Nik Mohd Hasyudeen Yusoff said.
“This collaboration would facilitate audit regulators to oversee cross border audits towards enhancing the soundness of the securities markets and investor protection in the respective countries,” he added.
The SC said the collaboration was the AOB’s first arrangement with other regulators outside the Asean region. The official cooperation will allow the audit regulators to share information upon request, with respect to foreign audit firms that fall within the respective regulatory jurisdiction.
As reported by the Star Online

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Secrect of Westminister

Travelling provides one with and opportunity to observe and reflect, if one is not busy shopping. While the opportunity comes in many ways, it could also be missed if the person is not alert about events or situations around him or her. Some of us may not want to even ponder at all, way should be stress our mind, they say.

The London Eye

Having and opportunity to wonder around the Westminister area in London provides me with the opportunity to be closer to the British culture. Why? Many British landmarks and institutions are around. One can easily visit Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, the Parliament, 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace if you are in Westminister.

I found it interesting that Trafalgar Studio, one of the many theater around London, is running the award winning YES, PRIME MINISTER show. This comedy which was written by Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn thrusts the much-loved characters Sir Humphrey Appleby and Jim Hacker into the chaos of the 21st century coalition politics. With the threats of financial meltdown just hours away, and the only hope of rescue resting on a morally dubious deal with the Foreign Minister of Kumranistan, the play involves riotous comedy of sex, scandals and scheming.

What is interesting from this play is that politicians are considered jokers by the British, not the spicies of people who are being scared of. In fact, the British politicians are scared of the public! They will be kicked out from office if they misbehaved. Not sure whether such values is shared in many other societies. Those who believe politicians are descendants of gods and never do wrong will view the play with contempt. How could the British make fool of this special people whose hands are kissed in many other parts of the world?

Yes Prime Minister

Perhaps this is the secret that is guarded dearly by many politicians around this planet. While they are fine if their citizens are here visiting British institutions, they may not want them to discover Trafalgar Studio!

You can know more about the play by visiting Yes, PRIME MINISTER