The Student Association cannot account for more than $50,000 of its budget after overdrawing its account last year, the SA announced Monday. The figure makes up more than one-eighth of their total budget and breaks down to $3 per student based on the SA $1-per-credit fee.
Senators and executive financial officials are baffled and unable to explain the missing funds.
“We have some facts from the University, but we don’t have enough to point any fingers,” said Dan Moss, chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
At the end of the fiscal year, the SA claimed to have more than $7,000 surplus, but University records showed a $50,574 debt.
SA members said University accounting officials attribute the deficit to 17 student groups spending more money than the SA actually allocated. Members of the SA executive and legislative branches said University books are also missing transactions, claiming both sets of books are inaccurate.
To discover the cause of the problem, SA President Phil Robinson issued an executive order asking the University to audit the SA’s financial records. He said only an audit will reveal the extent of the errors. The University has not yet responded o the request.
The Senate also proposed two measures to find the mistake and prevent future problems. The Senate announced it will form a committee to investigate the funds in addition to proposing new financial reform legislation. Both issues will be addressed at the Senate’s first meeting Tuesday.
Moss said all student organizations have been informed of the deficit, but groups should not expect funding to decrease this year.
He said larger student groups such as the College Democrats, College Republicans and the Jewish Student Association have volunteered to accept smaller allocations to lessen the burden on the SA and smaller student organizations.
The deficit initially affected the SA over the summer, Robinson said. The University froze all SA funds at the end of May, leaving Robinson “furious.” Robinson said money could not be spent on SA give-aways at Colonial Inauguration, such as key-chains and pens.
Vineet Daga, former vice president of financial affairs under former SA President Roger Kapoor, said the accounting problems were “unexpected.” The VPFA is responsible for approving all SA allocations.
Daga said antiquated technology and poor communication between himself, the University and the Senate Finance Committee is to blame.
He said funds unspent by groups should have been reclaimed, but were not.
“The same dollar could have been spent twice,” Daga said.
The Senate will investigate Daga’s claim, as well as accusations of continually failing and outdated software.
“No one person deserves all of the blame,” Daga said. “Nobody expected it.”
Former VPFA Josh Friedman said the situation is not “ideal,” but the SA could make the money go a long way. Friedman said former SA President David Burt had about the same amount two years ago, $310,000, that the SA has now.
“I think starting out with that amount should be OK, but they will have to be more cautious,” Friedman said. “The SA will need greater oversight, planning and care, but I don’t think it will harm groups significantly. I hope.”