By: Valerie Campbell
The UPEI Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) has been a long time member of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). In June 2015 I had the opportunity to represent the GSA at the Semi-Annual General Meeting of the CFS (there are two general meetings each year – the annual in November and the semi-annual in June). This was my first time at such an event and I was the only delegate from PEI. I was amazed by the energy of the meeting and the deep commitment of all present to issues of social justice and equity.
During a plenary session at that meeting, the Treasurer announced that audited financial statements for the previous year would not be available. The reason – the recent discovery of a previously undisclosed bank account. After consultation with legal and accounting professionals, it was determined that the audit could not be completed until the details of this account were uncovered. The firm of Grant Thornton was engaged to conduct a forensic review. I was quite concerned about the matter and questioned the financial practices of an organization that could lead to this but thought it only fair to wait until the review was completed before passing judgment.
Flash forward 18 months to November 2016. I am at my fourth CFS general meeting and, once again, this forensic review is under discussion. But this time, the news is good. The review was completed, and the auditing firm was then able to complete their work on the previous two financial statements. Everything is up to date. Yes, there were three meetings in which no audited financial statements were available. This was not by choice – an accounting firm cannot audit incomplete records. The records were not complete until the review was presented. A forensic review is essentially a thorough investigation and takes time.
At the plenary session of this last meeting, the Treasurer announced the completion of the review and also spoke about steps underway to tighten financial procedures to ensure this could not happen again. The full forensic review was not released because it contained information relating to personnel matters which are always confidential. However, when asked, the National Executive agreed to prepare a report for the June 2017 general meeting providing as much detail from the report as legally allowed.
This is accountability. A problem was discovered, reported, and dealt with in a professional manner. Due diligence was served. The process was as transparent as possible.