Frosh Week finances faze faculty societies

Audit into Orientation Round Table reveals monetary discrepancies, Julia Mitchell says

Commerce Society President Dave Waugh was taken aback by the bill ComSoc received for Frosh Week 2007.
Commerce Society President Dave Waugh was taken aback by the bill ComSoc received for Frosh Week 2007.
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When Commerce Society President Dave Waugh opened an invoice from the Orientation Round Table in late November, he was surprised at what he saw. The bill read $18,858—230 per cent of the bill the Commerce Society (ComSoc) received for Frosh Week 2006.

Waugh said the Orientation Round Table (ORT) told ComSoc to budget for Frosh Week based on their numbers from the 2006 event. Last year ComSoc was given a $10,002.72 bill. They got $1,802.50 in sponsorship dollars, bringing the total to $8,200.20.

This year ComSoc budgeted to spend about $2,000 more than last year, but wasn’t prepared for the much larger invoice.

AMS Vice-President (University Affairs) Julia Mitchell is auditing the ORT account after Waugh and other society executives brought forward concerns about financial mismanagement with this year’s ORT. Mitchell said she’s almost finished the audit and she will present the details of her findings at the next AMS Assembly meeting Feb. 14.

At last night’s Assembly, Waugh brought forward a motion calling on Mitchell to “revise the policy regarding Orientation Round Table to deliver improved accountability in the future.” Engineering Society President Charlie Scott seconded the motion, which was passed with two abstentions.

Waugh said ComSoc received its bill from ORT Co-ordinator Ryan Shoemaker the last week of November 2007.

“The first thing that caught me off guard was the fact that there was only one line item on the bill,” he said—“ORT recoverable.”

“I told Ryan then and there that we would not be paying anything until we saw a breakdown of those expenses,” Waugh said.

Earlier this week, Shoemaker said the faculty societies weren’t overcharged.

“It was just that it was more than what was budgeted for,” he said.

Shoemaker said the AMS executive didn’t tell faculties they wouldn’t get sponsorship money this year.

“Assembly passed a motion … not to allocate sponsorships to the faculties but to keep it within the AMS to cover ORT expenses,” he said.

ORT’s expenses include the co-ordinator’s salary, honoraria for three directors, training, volunteer appreciation and sponsorship expenses, which includes creating, distributing and mailing donation packages.

In past years, the ORT has transferred sponsorship money to the faculties, but Shoemaker said faculty societies shouldn’t budget for sponsorship from ORT.

“Budgeting wasn’t really done correctly on their part this year. … They budgeted based on last year’s and that’s not what they should have done.”

He said the amount of sponsorship money raised depends on the communications officer’s ability. Some years ORT has raised $35,000 and in others only $10,000.

Shoemaker said this year one of the communications officers left in January or February, which made it harder to raise money.

“We had to hire someone else but it wasn’t until March or April so there was a two- or three-month lag,” he said.

Faculties had to make up the difference when ORT didn’t raise enough money.

Mitchell said Orientation Round Table comes up with a sponsorship target amount at the beginning of every year. Last year’s sponsorship earnings totalled about $40,000. This year Shoemaker and his team thought they could raise $50,000, but only raised about $22,000.

Mitchell said sponsorship comes from corporations and Kingston-area businesses, but it varies from year to year.

“Unfortunately they didn’t come up with that much in sponsorship to be spread amongst all of the faculty societies,” she said.

Shoemaker said every faculty society had a chance to see the breakdown of their fees.

“Those breakdowns were given to every single faculty and available for pick-up at the AMS front desk,” he said. “There would never be any information withheld on them.”

But Waugh said the breakdown wasn’t at the office when he went to pick it up.

He had to get the breakdown from AMS President Kingsley Chak in January.

In conducting her audit Mitchell found many faculties were charged either too much or too little. ASUS and ComSoc’s bills will be decreased, Mitchell said, and EngSoc will see an increase in their bill because of the misallocation of funds.

Mitchell said some purchases charged to the faculty societies should have been absorbed by AMS administration.

ASUS’s original bill was about $111,000, Mitchell said, but it’s now in the $80,000 range.

The AMS purchases most of the supplies for Frosh Week—such as T-shirts and wristbands—up front, because most faculty societies can’t afford the supplies before they receive Frosh Week fees from incoming first-year students.

“The process by which we go about ordering things … is very flawed in that there’s no real check and balance,” Mitchell said. “The faculty societies don’t really have an opportunity to say, ‘Wait … that’s not what we have in our records.’”

She said supplies were marginally more expensive this year than last year, but faculty societies didn’t know that, so they couldn’t budget accurately.

ORT’s total budget for 2007 was $198,465.19, up from last year’s $123,896.66 budget. Mitchell said each faculty society’s bill increased 30 to 50 per cent.

Mitchell said almost every single number she has found in her audit so far has been different from the numbers Shoemaker reported.

She said she’s updating the new ORT Co-ordinator, Jeff Waite, ArtSci ’09, on the auditing process, but she’s waiting until the audit’s finished to present her findings to Shoemaker.

“We’re going to take this situation and use it as a learning experience, also, to make sure that the budgeting process is more collaborative for next year.”

Mitchell’s meeting with all the faculty societies next week individually to go through the new cost breakdown.

“I think as long as I keep these lines of communication open … it should be fine.”

Waugh has met with Mitchell more than once to discuss the audit. He said ComSoc will pay the new bill they receive.

“We plan to co-operate and trust Julia’s work,” he said. “But we fully expect to be paying more than we would have paid had ORT done its job.”

ASUS President Elamin Abdelmahmoud said ASUS received a breakdown of the costs in December, but its bill is much larger than expected and it’s unclear why.

In an e-mail to the Journal, Computer Science Association President Tim Ginn said COMPSA has had a number of problems communicating with ORT this year. He said COMPSA didn’t actually receive its bill when the other faculty societies did and he had to contact Chak to get the amount.

Ginn said the financial issues are frustrating—COMPSA’s $7,954.68 bill was three times last year’s bill— but they can be worked out.

“I’m most disturbed not by the improper billing … but by the things that were done wrongly that directly affected the experience of first-years participating in Orientation Week.”

Ginn said COMPSA still hasn’t received the tams they ordered for their frosh, and T-shirts for their frosh leaders were printed improperly.

“After continuing to press the point that we will not pay for tams which we did not receive, the audit Julia [Mitchell]’s doing revealed that they were in fact never ordered and that for months we’d been ignored and at best misinformed at worst outright lied to.”

—With files from Gloria Er-Chua

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