Council Connection

March 10, 2016 Meeting

The meeting of March 10th, 2016 was largely uneventful. There were three major items of note, two reports by committees of AUSU, and the first vote on the changes to the bylaws of the organization.

This meeting saw the presentation of the Forensic Audit Committee, a committee that was established in response to a request at the last Annual General Meeting for a forensic audit to be undertaken to understand what was going on with the Athabasca University Student Union Finances, after some unusual entries had been noted by The Voice Magazine in our report “It’s All About the Benjamins, Redux.” As we learned at the Annual General Meeting that year, former President, Jason Nixon, took on the role, and the wages, of the former Executive Director, despite there being no documentation to support this change in salary. As well, other concerns were brought forward about the executives raising their own compensation to far beyond that of other Student Unions, and of other overages in the budget that had not been approved.

So, nearly a year later, after having consulted with all of the people at the AGM, the Forensic Audit Committee has submitted its report. Their conclusions:

The committee determined that a forensic audit is not the right tool to answer the membership’s questions. All AUSU financial information is available and is being audited, there is no evidence of actual missing funds, and no outstanding issues that should be addressed.
The issues presented were primarily due to:
– Gaps in both policy and processes,
– Concerns over a potential breach in confidentiality, and
– The executive being in unchartered territory without significant governance experience or assistance.
The issues are all currently being addressed by AUSU to a significant degree …

If you read the full detail in their report, which should be available on the AUSU website next week, the question of “Was it appropriate?” which was asked of each concern, is never directly answered. The responses are “The appropriateness is called into question by..”, “It has been discovered that the information upon which the decision was made was either incorrect or misinterpreted”, or “There are some larger expenditures that would have benefited from the transparency of a Council motion,” but never a clear yes or no.

Throughout the report, recommendations are made that Council clean up the policies and establish better practices for the future including increasing transparency and communications with members, some 13 in all, but no recommendations address if there should be any consequences for those actions which had their appropriateness “called into question,” were based on “misinterpreted” information, or “would have benefitted from ? a Council motion”. Now, perhaps at this stage there is nothing beneficial that could be done, but that was not spelled out in this report.

The report was accepted by Council, with some of the recommendations adopted immediately (as they are already being done, such as increased communication with members) and the rest with the reasonable amendment that the timeline for the recommendations be extended to the end of the current fiscal year rather than the end of the term, which is happening in only a few weeks.

The second major report that was submitted was from the Executive Compensation Review Committee. In short, this committee came to the conclusion that the large increase in the Executive wages set by Council were not justifiable given the financial situation of AUSU and when compared with the honorariums at other student unions in Alberta. It recommended the wages be reverted back to what they would have been without the increase in April of 2015. It also provided, among others, recommendations that any adjustments to wages should only be applied to a future Council, not the one making the decision, with the exception of reducing wages if the financial situation requires it, and that larger increases (over 10%) require a larger majority of Council to pass.

Council accepted this report and the recommendations within in their entirety.

The final item of note was the first reading of the changes to the Bylaws as proposed by Council. These passed 6/1, with Councillor Philip Kirkbride voting against. The second and final reading of the bylaws is to take place on April 14th at 4:30pm. Members with concerns or seeking more information about the changes are encouraged to go to the AUSU governance forums

Karl graduated from AU’s Bachelor of Arts Program (with Great Distinction, he likes to brag) despite leaving most of his course work to the last month of his contract, every time. While not the most intelligent way to go about it, it did prepare him for the task of getting The Voice Magazine out every week.

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