ASUS must improve accountability

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The recent ASUS budget debacle has left a torrent of unanswered questions in its wake. In September, the largest faculty society at this university reported a net loss of $26,403 for the 2004-05 academic year.

Former ASUS Vice-President Ian Anderson is at the center of this storm. As the individual responsible for the Society’s finances, saying that “you don’t get a big financial picture until the end of the year” is hardly an adequate answer for the loss of such a large amount of money.

This loss is not simply a financial deficit, but an actual loss of money, meaning thousands of dollars are completely unaccounted for. While ArtSci Formal lost an estimated $30,000 due to low attendance, at least specific reasons can be pointed to and improved upon next year. However, there is no explanation as to why or how more than $1,500 was spent on miscellaneous expenditures.

And how do you reconcile the fact that despite a reported record-breaking year of sales expected to make $8,000, ASUS made only $500 from faculty jackets?

Anderson claims he did not know how many jackets were sold, deflecting responsibility to the Jackets Committee. While the committee is not free from blame, it was ultimately Anderson’s responsibility to ensure that ASUS finances were sound. Whether or not he had any direct involvement with the jackets, as vice-president (a position of leadership and authority) Anderson should take responsibility for the oversight rather than deflecting blame.

Such gross errors, however, also point to a systemic problem in the methods ensuring accountability within ASUS. If important financial documents can be “put in random places at any time of the day” and sometimes “slipped under a door,” according to Anderson, it is a clear indication that something needs to change in the organization. Although a budget review committee was established, it met too infrequently to enact any such changes. And while current ASUS Vice-President Lyndsey Hannigan has said that “accountability has increased 10- to 15-fold,” there is no way to measure accountability within such a definitive and quantitative context.

Policy changes to promote accountability, however, are more quantitative. As it stands, within ASUS, the current year’s budget can only be presented once the previous year’s budget has been passed. According to the minutes, the 2004-05 budget passed in September with only two abstentions, and yet only recently have all these discrepancies surfaced. What’s more, there is no incentive for the former Vice-President to actually present a detailed budget because it is so after the fact. A motion was drafted which would have withheld $200 of the Council members’ honoraria until the budget is passed. Although withholding $200 would hardly have been sufficient incentive and the motion was subsequently deemed unconstitutional, it recognizes the necessity for some sort of framework that would ensure accountability.

The information that has surfaced concerning financial inconsistencies emphasizes the need for greater accountability within ASUS. Additionally, individuals involved need to take responsibility for what has happened in order for questions to be answered.

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