ASUS budget reports $26,403 loss

Former VP says unmarked cash was left in his office, mailbox

Ian Anderson, former ASUS vice-president, was responsible for finances last year when ASUS posted a loss of thousands.
Ian Anderson, former ASUS vice-president, was responsible for finances last year when ASUS posted a loss of thousands.
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Adam Szulewski, senator and ASUS Assembly member, called for increased accountability at last night’s meeting.
Adam Szulewski, senator and ASUS Assembly member, called for increased accountability at last night’s meeting.
Photo: 

Some members of the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) Assembly are calling for increased financial accountability measures after last year’s budget revealed a net loss of $26,403.

According to the 2004-05 budget, ASUS lost approximately $30,000 on the ArtSci formal, and attributed more than $1,500 to miscellaneous expenditures. ASUS also made about $500 from faculty jacket sales, which have garnered more than $5,000 for each of the past two years, and was expected to make $8,000.

Ian Anderson, former ASUS vice-president and the individual responsible for ASUS finances for 2004-05, presented last year’s budget at the Sept. 29 ASUS Assembly meeting. ASUS Assembly passed the budget with two abstentions.

Anderson is currently head manager of The AMS Pub Services (TAPS).

Anderson said he didn’t notice budget irregularities over the course of the year.

“You don’t get a big financial picture until the end of the year,” he said.

Current ASUS Vice-President Lyndsey Hannigan said many of last year’s losses and budget discrepancies stemmed from a lack of checks and balances.

“A lot of issues that are coming up now are because there wasn’t a system of deposit and requisition,” she said.

According to ASUS policy, the previous year’s budget must be passed in order for the current year’s budget to be presented.

“[The 2004-05 budget] passed because what has to happen is the budget from the previous year has to pass before this year’s executive can proceed,” said Adam Szulewski, a senator on Assembly.

ASUS President Bradley Hammond said he thinks Assembly members didn’t feel pressured to pass the budget.

“Certainly not,” he said. “Each member of Assembly has their own power to make decisions as they wish.” Szulewski said some ASUS Assembly members voiced concerns about the losses at the Sept. 29 meeting.

“There were definitely issues raised and questions asked,” he said.

Anderson said irregularities in the budget stemmed from a lack of organization in the way people would give money to or get reimbursed from ASUS.

According to ASUS policy, if someone has spent money on behalf of the Society, in order to be reimbursed he or she must fill out a cheque requisition regarding what was spent, when it was spent and for what reason. The requisition must be approved by a commissioner, who must then give it to the ASUS vice-president. The vice-president is required to reimburse the individual within two business days. The same process is required for deposits, which must be given directly to the vice-president accompanied by a deposit slip.

“I’d get these [requisition and deposit slips] put in random places at any time of the day, in places that I wouldn’t necessarily know where they were,” Anderson said. “Sometimes they’d be in my box, sometimes they’d be slipped under a door.

“I’ve had deposits in my mailbox, which [is] open to the public. Any student at Queen’s ... could walk in and feasibly take it.”

Anderson said that on occasions when he was confronted with unmarked amounts of money, he would either guess where it should be deposited or divide it among several ASUS accounts.

“I would sometimes receive deposits of greater sums of cash that were unmarked, and I would just assume they were [for ArtSci] jackets,” he said.

Anderson said he didn’t notice gaps or errors in the budget until the end of the year, including a discrepancy regarding jacket sales. The projected revenue was $8,000, but only $500 was deposited in that account.

Anderson said he doesn’t know how many jackets were sold, or how many were meant to be sold. He said this was the responsibility of last year’s jackets committee.

“I don’t mean to be facetious, but they were the ones who were supposed to keep records, and they didn’t really keep accurate records,” he said. “I tried to get [the information] from them on numerous occasions ... but my attempts were unsuccessful.”

According to ASUS Assembly minutes from Oct. 13, Catherine Heith, one of eight ASUS representatives to the AMS, said she had been informed that last year’s jacket sales were the highest to date.

Alicia Miller, a member of last year’s jacket committee, could not be reached for comment.

Anderson said he wasn’t sure what expenses comprised the budget category of “miscellaneous,” which recorded a $1,500 expenditure.

During Anderson’s term as vice-president, he created a budget review committee whose purpose, he said, was to educate Assembly members about the budget and to increase accountability.

Jonathan Zipursky, ArtSci ’08 and ASUS Assembly member, said he was on last year’s budget review committee. Zipursky said he didn’t find the committee very helpful.

“We didn’t go too in-depth, and we only met a couple of times,” he said.

Anderson said he agrees that problems of accountability and organization affected the 2004-05 budget. He said he was saddened by the losses incurred because he cares deeply about ASUS.

“[The budget concerns are] an unfair situation, because I’ve been put in an unfair situation by someone not holding up their end of the agreement,” he said.

John Andrew Pankiw-Petty, last year’s ASUS president, said he believes there should be increased accountability regarding financial issues of the Society.

“I think that there’s always room for more explanation when it comes to where money goes, especially when it’s money that’s entrusted in the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society by the students,” he said. “There’s always room for attention to detail and always room for more explanation.”

Pankiw-Petty, who helped organize last year’s formal, said low attendance was the reason for the event’s monetary loss.

“In some of the final reports that we had with formal conveners from last year, they relayed their concerns about the location of the Memorial Arena and the advertising leading up to the event,” he said. “There was also the issue of other formals happening at the same time.”

Pankiw-Petty added that the budget for formal is based on its predicted revenue from ticket sales, and if that revenue doesn’t materialize, the society is at a loss.

“I’m not saying there was a problem [with advertising],” Pankiw-Petty said. “When less people come, I think that implies that next year, you have to pump up the advertising more.”

During the ASUS Assembly of Oct. 27, a motion was passed that mandates the vice president to give monthly budget updates to ASUS Assembly.

“Every month I put forth a mini-budget,” Hannigan said. “It’s going to be a reflective process so they can see [our financial system] throughout the year.”

Hannigan added that the cheque requisition and deposit systems that were not enforced last year will work better this year.

“We’re taking what happened last year and turning it into a learning experience,” she said. “Accountability has increased 10- to 15-fold.”

Some ASUS members said they still don’t believe enough has been done to ensure accountability regarding spending.

Szulewski said he was concerned by the fact that although a vice-president’s term is from May to May of the following year, he or she is expected to present a budget the following September.

“There’s really no real measure in place to make sure that actually happens,” he said. “If there were problems in the prior year, there [could be] a mechanism in place so that it’s not supposed to happen again.”

Szulewski drafted a motion which he sent to ASUS Council, intending to bring it forward at the Assembly meeting two weeks ago.

The drafted motion proposed that $200 from the Council members’ honouraria—the last $500 of which is normally paid in May following the writing of a transition manual—would be withheld until the budget of that year is passed in September.

Council challenged this proposal, however, and sent it to ASUS Judicial Committee Chair Christopher Langford, who ruled it unconstitutional as per Section 2.04.06 of the ASUS Constitution. According to the constitution, “Changes [to honorarium payments] may be made, upon the recommendation of Council, only by referendum, or at the Society Annual Meeting or a Special General Meeting.”

Szulewski said while he recognizes the technical unconstitutionality of the proposal, he doesn’t entirely agree with the specific part of the constitution that it violates.

“My motion was deemed invalid because I am not a member of Council and only members of Council can make changes to honoraria,” he said. “I’m not 100 per cent convinced that that’s appropriate, to have only members of Council make honoraria decisions.”

Langford’s ruling stopped the proposal from being brought forward as a motion. Instead, Szulewski raised the issue at last night’s Assembly meeting during discussion period, eliciting mixed reactions.

Max Rubin, ArtSci ’08 and one of eight ASUS representatives to the AMS, said he disagreed with Szulewski’s proposal.

“My main problem with this motion is an issue of trust. When did we stop trusting the people that we elected?” he asked.

Heith said she believes Szulewski’s proposal would help to ensure more clarity and scrupulousness regarding the drafting and passing of the budget.

“This is something that is our responsibility, to put in place things that are constitutionally binding for [Council members] to continue to do their jobs and be accountable to ASUS as a whole,” she said. “That is really what this motion is attempting.”

No consensus was reached at the meeting. No one the Journal has interviewed has indicated for certain that any further action will be taken on this issue in the near future.

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