At the end of his term in May, Former Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Vice President (VP) Finance Niall Carolan failed to deliver a budget report for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, as his position mandated him to. Although the SSMU Legislative Council approved a budget for the 2017-18 academic year, the lack of a budget report has posed an ongoing problem for VP Finance Arisha Khan, since the start of her term in May.
The budget report is an evaluation and simplification of the SSMU budget delivered at the end of every fiscal year by the VP Finance. The drafting process includes consultations with the SSMU Accounting Team and General Manager. The budget report provides an overview of the use of funds and explanation of transactions during SSMU’s fiscal year, which begins on June 1 and ends on May 31 of the following year.
“It is vital that a formal budget report is created as this creates transparency vis-a-vis the use of student fees,” Khan said. “Additionally, it is extremely important to highlight any changes to the budget via a report for the incoming VP Finance so they can get an understanding of why items or the structure of the [budget] may have changed from previous years.”
Khan believes that SSMU’s financial successes and failures in any given year depend heavily on the budget report written the previous year. Khan also suggested that the absence of a budget report this year could negatively affect SSMU’s relationship with students, who look to the executive for clear communication and transparency.
“I think the biggest repercussion due to the lack of a budget report is transparency to the general [student] membership,” Khan said. “As VP Finance, my first obligation is to our membership and with that comes the responsibility of not only making decisions that have a financial impact but also being able to explain them to fee-paying students, whether that be through [SSMU Legislative] Council reports or the budget report at the end of my term.”
In addition to neglecting to deliver the budget report, Carolan also failed to complete the required tri-annual budget revision, a process in which the VP Finance updates the budget three times per year with unaccounted finances. Khan expressed further concern that lacking tri-annual budget revisions would contribute to SSMU’s resulting lack of transparency in its finances. Carolan did not respond to multiple attempts by The McGill Tribune to contact him.
A representative of the SSMU Judicial Board–which examines questions regarding SSMU’s constitution and obligations–was unable to indicate whether SSMU would face hearings for the absence of a budget report, citing Section 15.1 of the SSMU Constitution and Internal Procedures, s. 13-14.
“[The] Judicial Board can only examine a matter once a SSMU Member has petitioned the Judicial Board,” Chief Justice James Trougakos wrote in an email to the Tribune. “In order to petition the Judicial Board, various criteria must be met [….It] would [also] be inappropriate for the Judicial Board to pronounce itself on these matters, as the Judicial Board could be petitioned to adjudicate them, although we make no comment on whether such a petition meets the various criteria or would be successful.”
While the missing budget report has not caused any legal or official repercussions as of yet, SSMU President Muna Tojiboeva believes it has caused consternation in SSMU’s activities.
“The repercussions have largely been the additional staff time required to administer our financial operations,” Tojiboeva said. “Additionally, the budget is a way to increase transparency to the SSMU’s finance to the general membership. Through not submitting this vital report, the former VP Finance did not fulfill an essential part of his mandate.”