The accounts of the University of Guyana Student Society (UGSS) have been submitted to the university’s internal auditor for scrutiny in the wake of alleged misuse of funds by President Ganesh Mahipaul, while at least two members of the executive have announced their resignations over the handling of the situation.
UGSS Public Relations Officer (PRO) Amir Dilwar and Vice President Mahendra Doraisami have opted to resign from the body.
However, Dilwar has explained that though he and Doraisami have tendered their resignations, the executive committee has refused to accept them until an investigation into the allegations of misuse of the funds has been completed.
He said that his decision to demit office came after a meeting held last Saturday. In a statement which was posted on Facebook, Dilwar said that during the meeting several recommendations, drafted by the UGSS Finance Committee, were made in relation to the way forward on the situation. He said the first recommendation required Mahipaul, who at the meeting admitted to “borrowing” the money to facilitate personal expenses, to repay whatever monies he admitted to borrowing as well as whatever, if any, would have been determined by the audit to have been misappropriated by May 31,t 2013.
The second recommendation required that Mahipaul “be sent on leave until the audit is completed effective immediately, after which he shall resign, and that he shall be replaced on all committees that he is a part of as a UGSS representative.”
Dilwar said since the UGSS President could not have accessed the funds alone, he suggested that the co-signatories of the cheques received by Mahipaul–UGSS Treasurer Sherwin Benjamin and Secretary Adel Lily–should also be removed and asked to resign at the end of the audit.
“I brought it to the attention of the executive that even though the president admitted to using the monies for his personal expenses, the monies would have never been available to him if the other two signatories of the account had not endorsed the cheques. I made it clear that I was not saying that the Secretary nor the Treasurer had taken the society’s monies in any way, but rather that if they had exhibited better acumen then the entire situation could have been avoided,” he explained.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Lily, in an attempt to publicly defend himself, stated that he had always been transparent with members of the executive council about the financial affairs of the UGSS.
He explained that on November 20, 2012, Mahipaul requested and received a cheque signed by him for $127,000, which he said he needed to pay his tuition fees. Knowing that the UGSS president receives free tuition, he said, he signed the cheque and gave it to Mahipaul. However, he added, he later sought the counsel of former UGSS president Duane Edwards on the issue and was told that the Bursary usually processed the waiver of the tuition fees of the UGSS president, not the UGSS.
Lily said that when he approached Mahipaul with this information, he was told by the president that he preferred to do it this way. “To me that was the end of the matter with him after he signed the voucher,” he added.
He said that Mahipaul on two other occasions requested money, which he promised he would repay. In one instance, he said Mahipaul requested a loan of $200,000 to take care of the birth of his son, which he promised his father would repay within a month. In the other instance, he asked for a loan of $100,000, which he said would be repaid by his brother within a week. Lily said he was not involved in the endorsement of the actions of Mahipaul in relation to the use of other funds.
According to Lily, Mahipaul received loans to the sum of $300,000, which is below his total honorarium, which is a UGSS budget line item. In all, Mahipaul is accused of misusing $800,000.
Lily stated that it was not strange for persons to receive loans from the UGSS. “I have seen financial statements for the UGSS from 1999 to date and every year students take loans,” he said.
However, he said, he expressed concerns about accountability and the format for releasing the money on numerous occasions since last year, since none had been established. He charged that all documentation in relation to the UGSS’ finances was kept by the president, despite concerns by the treasurer.
Lily added that he and others sought, at executive council meetings, to deal with the issue but to no avail. However, he added that he did inform the Registrar and other senior university officials about his concerns over the UGSS’ finances. “I make no bones in expressing my concern about the state of affairs in the UGSS and more so the modus operandi as it relates to finance because we had no system,” he maintained, while adding that he did not hide or support Mahipaul’s actions.
Dilwar however, maintained that both the secretary and treasurer should share the responsibility for the issue and proposed that both officers be suspended and subsequently be made to resign. Ultimately, the matter came to a vote and the majority of the council decided against Dilwar’s proposal, prompting him to give verbal notice of his complete resignation, effective from April 29; Doraisami reportedly echoed similar sentiments and left the meeting.