There are troubling aspects of the UGSS audit report

Dear Editor,

The report on the audit which was conducted by the Audit Department of UG on University of Guyana Student Society (UGSS) finances has not been accepted by the Executive Council as yet. Nevertheless, I wish to address the troubling parts of that report.

The Constitution and Standing Orders of the UGSS, Section 39 – Audit Sub Section reads:

“(i) All accounts of the society shall be made up yearly to the end of the financial year to which they relate by the Treasurer and Assistant Treasurer of the Society and shall be audited by the auditor as soon as possible;

“(ii) If the Treasurer and Assistant Treasurer neglect to make up the accounts as required by sub-section (i) of this section they shall be guilty of conduct injurious to the society in the event of which the Executive Council shall invoke section 11 (Discipline) of this constitution;

“(iii) The Treasurer and Assistant Treasurer shall not later than 7 days before the date of the commencement of the audit, deposit all accounts duly made up, together with all books and documents relating thereto, in the appropriate office of the society where they shall, until the commencement of the audit, be open at all reasonable hours to the inspection of all persons interested, and any such person shall be at liberty to make copies of or extracts from the deposited accounts, books and documents;

“(iv) In carrying out an audit, the auditor shall have power: (a) To retain possession of any book or document until the completion of the audit, or, if there is any question of the propriety or legality of any transaction supported by any document or recorded in any book aforesaid, he may retain possession, therefore, until such time as the propriety or legality of the transaction has been established or otherwise; (b) To seal any safe, cabinet or other furniture used by the society for the safe keeping of any cash, book or document and where any person tampers with or wilfully breaks any seal so affixed by the auditor, he shall be guilty of conduct injurious to the society in event of which the Executive Council shall invoke Section 11 of this constitution.”

Editor, the Vice-Chancellor requested an immediate audit into the UGSS accounts. A memo was sent to me from the Chief Accountant requesting that I surrender all books and documents to the Internal Auditor in order to facilitate the VC’s request. I immediately informed the UGSS Treasurer. The Secretary and myself handed over all the books and documents that were in our possession to the Treasurer who made up the account and submitted it to the Auditor.  Before the accounts were submitted to the Auditor, the Executive Council at an extraordinary Council meeting of UGSS was first presented with the accounts, which were accepted. I was then sent on administrative leave to facilitate this audit; subsequently, I met with the Auditor on two separate occasions to answer questions pertaining to the audit. The Auditor informed me that I have cleared up all his queries at the moment and, if he needed more, he would make contact with me. He never contacted me outside of those two meetings we had. Moreover, the Treasurer was in constant communication with the Auditor.

Now to address the report in its entirety. First, the Auditor said in his report that his office was uncertain of an approved budget. A budget was approved by the Executive Council at its first statutory meeting (the Treasurer was absent) which was later submitted to the Finance & General Purposes Committee (F&GP) for final approval. However, the F&GP members did not approve this budget, rather, they requested that UGSS meet with the Bursar so as to create a budget that fell within the correct format. The Executive Council was informed of this new development and the Treasurer requested that the Executive Council submit a new budget for approval. At that point, I asked each faculty representative to submit a mini-budget for their respective faculty not exceeding $200,000. Few faculties have submitted, and a revised budget was never created.

Secondly, the Auditor said that the constitution provided for the treasurer to be the compulsory signatory unless the executives decided otherwise. I was made a compulsory signatory through a letter coming from the Students’ Welfare Department that was sent to Republic Bank, which gave the compulsory signatory as the President and the two secondary signatories, the Treasurer and the Secretary. In addition, this letter was signed by our Chief Elections Officer Ms Daniella King. This practice has been happening for years and was never an issue. The society’s Executive Council did not object to the President being the compulsory signatory.

Thirdly, the Auditor disallowed $125,720 and concluded that I am solely responsible for the amount. Had I been given a hearing, this would have been challenged. How can you disallow what was approved by the entire council? The composition of the $125,720 is a donation to the VID ($20,000), tuition costs ($32,000), travelling expenses, meals to meet with the business community ($58,720), and trip to Berbice Campus with a donation to the PRO department for Santa’s Helper ($15,000). All these expenses were approved by the Executive Council. I do not understand how is it that the Auditor can disallow what was allowed by the governing body of the UGSS, when the constitution clearly states under section 26 (ii) that all monies received or allocated by the university for the use of the society shall be paid over to the Society’s General Account and shall be applied in accordance with the directions of the Executive Council.

Fourth, the auditor brought out in his report that I am yet to provide documents for additional spending of $265,000. The composition of the $265,000 is the granting of funds to replace the missing laptop computer of a student ($100,000), UGSS office bills ($35,000), other expenses ($5,000), return of an HNC system unit ($100,000), and return of 17” flat panel monitor ($25,000). Again, I say, the Executive Council approved the $100,000. All bills and receipts that were in my possession were handed over to the Treasurer who submitted them to the Auditor. As it relates to the return of the system unit and flat panel monitor, the Treasurer took this equipment to the CEO of Ultratech Engineering for repairs. At least that’s what he told me he was going to do.

Editor, what strikes me most, is the fact that the Auditor found that 62% of the cheques were signed by the Treasurer which means that 38% were signed by the Secretary, and Ganesh Mahipaul is held solely responsible for $265,000; the Secretary is held solely responsible for $97,720 and the President, Secretary and Treasurer, for $100,000. In percentage terms that means Ganesh Mahipaul is responsible for 64.47%, the Secretary – who signed 38% –  is responsible for 28.33%, and the Treasurer – who signed 62% – is responsible for 7.20%. This would seem to reflect taking sides.

I wish to challenge the Auditor to produce the audited reports for the years 2007/2008, 2008/2009, 2009/2010, 2010/2011 and 2011/2012.

Editor, this report does not reflect impartiality. To conclude, I wish to notify the general public that I am seeking legal advice on the way forward.

Yours faithfully,
Ganesh Adjtya Mahipaul

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