The Budgetary process

Bazaar_Kashan_by_Eugène_Flandin_330The authorisation of the Grand Vazir shown by the imprint of the official seal was necessary for all but the most minor of government and in particular royal court operations. Although it might seem obvious and even necessary now, given the absolute power and position of the Safavid kings at the time, their insistence on fairness in all financial transactions involving the royal household is surprising. Prices for goods bought in were always set by a committee which included representatives of the relevant guild and the elders in each case. This appears to be as much for ensuring the interests of the royal household as the supplier. As the next step and in order to prevent any accusations and claims regarding the quality of the goods by either side, samples were stamped and filed with the purchase contracts to provide a basis for comparison should the need arise.

Where the price of goods was to be set annually, a gathering was held chaired by the Vazir of the relevant workshops and attended by the representative of the Treasury, the Mustaufi of Isfahan and the ‘elders of the guild’ where a fair price was agreed upon. In order to ensure conformity with the quality of the goods thus approved, samples were collected and put under seal. In the course of the year, as the need arose, the head of each workshop would buy them in accordance with the sample. For some other commodities required monthly, the elders of the guild would hand over the contracts listing prices to the representative of the Treasury. He would in turn list the goods and prices in a document which he would present to the Superintendant of the workshops. If the latter found the prices quoted unacceptable, he would reduce them to a reasonable level. Then the official responsible for each workshop would draw up purchase orders in line with the budget and once the Nazir put his seal on the document, the sum was credited for the purchase.

Every month, each workshop prepared a summation of its daily expenditure with additions made for any gatherings or banquets. These were sealed by the Nazir and included in the daybook. The process was speeded up where foodstuffs are concerned to avoid spoilage. In the case of annual provision of goods from provinces, a delegate was sent by the Nazir to go and buy the goods and dispatch them directly to the court. If the goods are not received for any reason, the heads of the workshops would send a report stamped by the Nazir to obtain credit to buy the same as per other goods.

The financial structure set up in parallel with the administrative, provided the checks and balances which ensure the correct running of the administration of the Royal Household. While Nazir of the Royal Household was the official in charge, every penny of the expenditure was approved by the Vazir and then presented to the Nazir for his stamp. Each department keept daily, weekly and monthly books which account for every transaction and operation within the department. These were regularly presented to the Vazir who compares them with his own register and corrected or approved them. Any voucher subsequently issued for the purchase or acquisition of goods and services was inspected by the Vazir and sanctioned. The duties of the Musaufi and Mushrif in each department followed the cascading of responsibilities and accountability down to the lower levels. Thus, at each level the administrative cadre anticipated the quantity and quality of goods necessary for meeting the daily needs of each department. The financial officers inspect and approve the list which went up to the level of the Vazir who in turn ensured that all was in order before signing off the list and passing it for the final approval to the Nazir. Once this process was complete, vouchers were issued for each transaction which were again presented through the chain for verification and payment. All these plus any remaining credit or outstanding debit were recorded in the day books for each workshop to ensure that the Royal Household did not suffer any loss and was not overcharged.

Once a year Nazir set the salaries of workshop staff and approved their leaves. He was also authorised to bulk buy when necessary and store the goods to avoid paying inflated prices in the course of the year. In fact, Nazir’s responsibility for the correct conduct of the court finances was quite onerous since he was held responsible for the spirit and not just the letter of the law. For example, he was expected to inspect the household regularly to ensure the quality of the commodities bought and received, the food cooked and served, the health and fitness of the animals including camels and horses and the fuel stores providing wood to the kitchens and bathhouses amongst many others.

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