By: Zach Geldert
Photo by: Keith Capstick
Every student at UPEI is obligated to pay certain fees at the beginning of the year to the Student Union. These fees go towards offering a variety of services to students such as funding initiatives for students on campus. Another example is the membership fees which each student pays to be a part of two student advocacy groups, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) and the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). These groups have the mandate to act on behalf of students in representing their voices on a national level. For example, these associations regularly sit down with politicians to discuss many issues facing students such as tuition. In theory, these organizations are important and every student ought to be happy that their money is going towards making sure their voices are heard. However, one of these organizations may not be managing student money in the best manner.
The Canadian Federation of Students has not released a financial report for members (students) to view since 2013. This is not only concerning but also an illegal pursuant to the Canadian Not-For-Profit Corporations Act which states that â€œ[t]he directors of a corporation shall place before the members at every annual meeting (a) prescribed comparative financial statements that conform to any prescribed requirements and relate to…(ii) the immediately preceding financial yearâ€. The CFS has not done this. The Cadre has obtained the financial report for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2015, and has found startling information. On page 13 of the audited financial report, compiled by MNP Accounting in Ottawa, there is a note that states there was an unknown bank account with $440,982 in net revenue in the account. The statement says that the account dates back to the fiscal year ended June 30, 2011. This account received $660,699 in revenue and incurred expenses of $219,717. The note says that these expenses were incurred due to â€œprofessional feesâ€ and no further information is offered.
It is alarming that an organization can seemingly forget about almost half a million student dollars on top of the fact that these documents, according to federal legislation, ought to have been available to all members two years ago. Many questions arise from this scenario. What are the professional fees that the CFS spent over $200,000 on and why were they allegedly unaware of this? Did someone in the CFS know of this account and negate to inform the members? Was/is the CFS involved in some form of litigation that they are trying to hide from the members? One would reason that the dollar amount coupled with the in and out flow of money justifies the assumption that this account was simply forgotten. The CFS must answer to its members and offer a detailed explanation of its actions.
The Cadre reached out to the CFS for a comment on these matters and was delighted to have a lengthy telephone conversation with the national treasurer of the CFS, Mr. Peyton Veitch. Mr. Veitch was forthcoming in admitting that the information that the Cadre has received is accurate and that the statements were long overdue and provided an explanation for this circumstance. Mr. Veitch said that the CFS had to hire an external accounting firm, Grant Thornton, to conduct a forensic accounting investigation into the hidden bank account. This is the reason that the statements were delayed. He went on to state that the investigation was completed and that the financial statements would be forwarded to the Cadre this week, at which time The Cadre plans on doing a follow-up comparison between the internal documents that are currently in its possession and the official ones.
When pressed further about the investigation and its findings, Mr. Veitch said that he could not comment further, nor could he release the documents in full to the members, due to the â€œconfidential human resources nature of the findingsâ€. However, Mr. Veitch did confirm that the CFS has voted to release a report on the matters no later than June of 2017, after being advised by legal counsel about what can be released. There is no doubt that many CFS members will be anxiously awaiting this report as it raises questions about the true meaning of what a â€œconfidential human resources matterâ€ is.
Speaking with business professionals, the Cadre has gathered that this is often used to politely say that there is someone taking money from the organization. While this is purely speculation and has not been confirmed, it raises many questions. What kind of policies does the CFS have in place to protect studentsâ€™ money? Has the person(s) responsible been properly dealt with? Ought the CFS hire a consultancy firm to implement new policies to better protect studentsâ€™ money? The facts remain to be fully seen. Nonetheless, these questions must be answered in an open and cooperative manner if the CFS wishes to maintain the trust of the students that it represents.