1916.07.06.De Worms et Cie Port-Saïd

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Worms & C°
Branch Houses in Egypt
Suez, Alexandria & Cairo

Port-Saïd, 6th July 1916
MM. Worms & Cie - Paris

Dear Sirs.
Mr. Roussel paid his visit to Cairo about which we wrote in our last, spending Monday and Tuesday (3rd & 4th July) in the office. We can only as a result of this visit confirm what we have already told you, adding that the confusion in accounts and stocks is so great (chaos would hardly be too strong a term) that it is impossible to render you this week, as we had hoped, anything in the nature of a final report, the data for which it will require a considerable time to compile.
To keep you posted as far as possible and as far as we ourselves have knowledge, we will meanwhile mention a few points. Mr. L. Talka, the "cashier" will have to go. It has been proved against him that he has been in the habit of receiving sums in payment of oil accounts and putting the proceeds in his own pocket. This was proved in the following way. We have been compelled to adopt the rather awkward expedient of asking our clients what they owe us, and several of these clients have produced invoices receipted by Talka which invoices still stand in our books to the debit of those clients. Confronted by these documents Mr. Takla has been forced to pay, and has so far reimbursed us with £,E,54. There may be other similar cases and it is our intention to keep Takla until all these cases have been cleared up (it will take perhaps three weeks to get to the root of this matter) and then dismiss him. We do not think the man is deliberately a thief, but his own methods and all the methods of the Cairo office have been so loose, that he has never known exactly how he stood, and whenever he has found himself with an apparent surplus without making any attempt to trace, he has simply given himself the benefit of the doubt and pocketed the difference. It is quite impossible, you will understand, to keep such a man in our employment and we fear also it will be necessary to dismiss one or two of the other clerks, and almost to make a clean sweep of this Augean stable. The staff, with the exception of Mr. Shore, the typist is paid by the Asiatic and it is in the agreement that no clerk can be dismissed without the sanction of London. It will be necessary therefore to give some explanation to London, though we shall take their sanction as given beforehand. The stock is also in a deplorable condition. Figures had been got out before Mr. Roussel's arrival showing an apparent shortage of some 3.800 tins of kerosene and over 4.000 gallons of the same, also some 130 tins of benzine, but owing to the confusion it is impossible to say whether this shortage, or all of it, is real, and whether the oil has not been delivered and the proceeds of it not yet encashed on some missing invoice, but the shortages appear to go very far back, several years if not more, which would make it very difficult to recover anything. We ascertain that the stock has not been cheeked for many years, although the rule was clearly laid down that they had to be checked from the office every week with a counter check by the manager once a man, and statements rendered to Port Said accordingly. The statements have been rendered, but not being the result of a check, were quite worthless. The value of the above shortages, at present high prices, is roughly £1.100, which may have to be made good to the Asiatic. Mr. Bouerie is now installed in the Cairo office and it is one of his immediate duties to trace back the stock as related to account sales and invoices from 31st May last as far as may be found practicable. Mr. Sweet will leave for Cairo about the 10th instant to take over from Mr. Buchanan, who will return to Port Said, and this for the reasons mentioned in our last, which hold good in our opinion. Mr. Germain has returned with Mr. Roussel, and the latter with Mr. Germain's assistance has devised a new system of bookkeeping in conformity with the practice of our Firm at Suez and Alexandria. Mr. Swallow is by way of being a chartered accountant of some kind and had a curious system, but this has to go with the whole regime. You may take note of the fact that Mr. Swallow professed to be an expert in book-keeping to show you how absolute his personal responsibility is. Mr. Roussel gleaned from the staff that Mr. Swallow's absence from the office during the past year was not necessarily connected with illhealth, since it seems that for many many years he had never devoted more than about half an hour in the whole day to office work. His practice was to come in only for a few minutes before post time to sign letters and documents. The rest of the day he was in his house or out in town. Since we have spoken of these matters to Mr. Sweet, prior to sending him up to Cairo, we have questioned him about his experience in 1909. According to him the state of affairs then was very similar and we will give you one instance of Mr. Swallow's crass unconscientiousness. Mr. Sweet found that the virtual cashier of the Cairo office was a man named Aly Ebeid, a native drawing a salary of 6o to 75 francs a month, whose duties, as prescribed by Mr. Swallow were (1st) to sweep the office, (2nd) to act as "valet de chambre" to Mr. Swallow, (3rd) to receive, pay out and keep the cash, which he did in a drawer in a desk in the office, the daily encashments of Asiatic funds in Cairo, be it noted, being up to £1.500! The only change effected after 1909 was that a safe was provided and a junior clerk, Takla, superseded Aly Ebeid, but the latter, until Mr. Buchanan took over from Mr. Swallow, was still freely receiving and paying out cash in place of Mr. Takla who was in the habit of absenting himself a good deal. Mr. Swallow held all the time and still has in his possession a duplicate key of the cash safe, the original being in possession of Mr. Takla. Mr. Swallow would often go to the safe after business hours and abstract from it gold or bank notes without leaving any record or informing Mr. Takla. The latter would apparently sometimes count his cash in the morning, notice a difference and ask Mr. Swallow if he had taken anything and Mr. Swallow would then say he had done so. We have had Mr. Swallow written to officially from the Cairo Office, requesting the return of the duplicate key of the safe.
To what extent our clients and even the Asiatic have been robbed in all these years under the system of "majoration" already spoken of we shall probably never know. It would be almost a hopeless task to unravel such a tangled skein, and we think you will agree with us that we have no alternative but to look upon past transactions in sales of products as done with and final.
Deeply regretting this disgraceful state of affairs,
We are, dear Sirs,
Yours faithfully,

[Signature illisible]

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