The Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) is considering centralizing the finances of its various departmental associations as it seeks to restructure its own finances to comply with the Memoranda of Agreement (MoA) signed with the McGill administration.
AUS is also in negotiation with some departmental associations regarding the possibility of these associations becoming independent of AUS.
The MoA, which outlines the relationship between AUS and the University, requires AUS to complete financial audits every year. If the conditions of the MoA are not met, the administration will not release student fees to AUS.
According to AUS President Devon LaBuik, the Society has not delivered audits to the University since 2008 – the same year that departmental associations’ bank accounts were externalized, meaning that departments took control of their own finances.
“This was not an issue because the McGill administration had let it fly for so long,” said LaBuik. “However, going into this year they wanted a full audit, otherwise they refused to release our fees.”
McGill’s Director of Internal Communications Doug Sweet told The Daily that each accredited student association needs to produce an annual audited statement of its finances, proof of insurance, and proof of incorporation.
“An audited financial statement is required to make sure that the money the University collects from students and hands over to AUS is, in fact, properly managed and properly spent,” said Sweet.
AUS VP Finance Saad Qazi told The Daily that since departmental associations’ bank accounts were externalized, the lack of financial reporting from the associations left AUS without enough records to finalize the audits.
Re-internalizing departmental association bank accounts is only one of the options AUS is currently contemplating, but according to LaBuik, it would be the easiest to implement.
Some of the larger department associations – such as Political Science, Economics, Philosophy, and English – held a joint meeting to discuss the effects of this measure on their autonomy.
According to Political Science Student Association (PSSA) President Talitha Calder, re-internalizing would deeply affect the association because it is the biggest in the Faculty of Arts.
“We receive the largest financial allocation from the AUS each year. We receive an allocation of about $3700 each year, and we put that toward events…we make expenses on a weekly basis,” said Calder.
If PSSA were re-internalized, the AUS would once again control its bank accounts, affecting the departmental association’s expenses.
“Our biggest concern is that it would slow down our ability to hold events, and in some ways we are concerned about the departmental association’s autonomy as an organization,” she added.
Qazi mentioned that AUS’ financial track record has also raised doubts among departmental associations.
Qazi told The Daily that he began his term at a time when AUS had a large amount of debt.
“The AUS originally had savings of around $90,000 to $120,000…then they cashed in the savings to the checking account, but then those got taken over by the Quebec government for delinquency on filing taxes. So we have currently $100,000 frozen by the Quebec government, but we are hoping that because our tax status is also now updated for the first time in the last three years, [we’ll get the money] sometime in October [or] November,” he explained.
McGill has released around $50,000 in AUS fees, which the Society used to pay off last year’s debts, according to Qazi.
“We have done all that McGill has asked of us, in terms of making sure that an audit for this year occurs,” he said. “So hopefully the fees for this semester of Fall 2012 will also be released.”
An alternative to internalization would be for the departmental associations to take on greater responsibility and perform the same level of financial reporting as AUS, according to Qazi.
Calder said that the PSSA was given the option to “re-internalize the account, or the external departments would just become completely externalized and have to become their own associations, like their own non-profits, similar to the AUS.”
A final decision has not yet been made, as AUS continues to consult its financial auditors.