Pat de Brún, President of UCD Students’ Union, is considering implementing new staff structures in the SU as part of a reform package that hopes the make the Union, and particularly its finances, more transparent.
Last week The University Observer revealed the SU were considering the possibility of taking out a loan when it emerged the student representative body had found itself in debt.
The discovery was made in the absence of the SU Financial Administrator Dave Carmody who is currently on extended sick leave. The Financial Administrator is a university employee, permanently seconded to the SU, however, despite this, de Brún says “the financial administrator does not report to the university on the internal affairs of the Union.”
According to de Brún, “the role of financial administrator is to oversee all financial affairs of the SU. The current financial administrator has also been financially responsible for both bars. This responsibility is separate from union work however as the union does not control the bars.”
Last month the Sunday Independent reported that external auditors had been called in to investigate the finances of the UCD Student Bar after it failed to publish accounts since 2004. One senior college source told the paper the failure to publish accounts in seven years had caused “alarm bells to ring loudly.”
When asked by the College Tribune if Carmody was responsible for the current confusion regarding the state of the SU accounts, de Brún said “it would be inappropriate of me to comment on an employee who is on sick leave. Anyway, the current internal investigation into the accounts has yet to produce final results.”
De Brún, who has been very open and frank about the investigation, said “the number one priority is to stabilise the current financial situation and to implement new structures to ensure this never happens again.”
No sign of any current or former Union employees taking money illegally from the SU has emerged in the ongoing investigation. “The indications from our investigation is that there is no suggestion whatsoever of money being taken illegally. It seems that any issues that arose have been due to inappropriate financial structures being in place. However as I mentioned before, the investigation is not yet complete.”
Some have questioned how former SU Presidents like Paul Lynam, Gary Redmond and Aodan O Dea were seemingly unaware of any these financial problems. De Brún said “I cannot speak on behalf of any previous presidents,” but it is his “understanding that they were unaware of any financial problems.”
De Brún hopes to embark on a process of transparent comprehensive reform of the Union’s structures. He explained to the College Tribune, “I intend to incorporate the union as a company limited by guarantee. This move was approved by the Union Executive last Monday and work is progressing on it. This move would mean that each year the SU would be legally obliged to produce externally audited accounts.”
“I would also intend to have a certain number of external directors who would come from financial and legal fields. This would ensure full financial accountability and stability. There are other moves which are still being considered such as implementing new staff structures. I can’t go into that any more right now as no decisions have yet been made there. This is a long term project and certain aspects are down the line.”
Last year the College Tribune requested a copy of the full accounts of the SU however the paper was told on several occasions that the full accounts could not be made available as a significant amount of the information was “commercially sensitive.”
Some have pointed to this as a cause of the lack of transparency in the Union’s accounts as large bulks of income and expenditure cannot be published in full detail.
De Brún hopes to tackle this through reform, “Although not every detail has been ironed out yet, my intention is to leave no stone unturned in terms of our new financial structures. Every single student in UCD is a member of the SU and each student should have a right to see where their money is going.
“The only exception might be certain Ents events, as many contracts with artists contain non-disclosure clauses in relation to artists’ fees. It might however be possible to publish profit/loss figures for each event. Details like this will only be fully examined and decided upon down the line. I can say however that, wherever possible, every single aspect of the accounts will be published.”
Speaking to the College Tribune, Gary Redmond, UCDSU President 2009/10 said “the one thing I can categorically say is that for the whole time I was President theere wasn’t anything to intimate that the Union was in financial trouble.”
Redmond said at the end of his term he was advised by Dave Carmody, SU Financial Administrator that the Union was “financially sound and that it was not in any debt whatsoever.”