USG conducts first SEC budget audit

Chris Nguyen, Staff Reporter

The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Finance Committee has recently completed an audit, noting and grading the finances of the seven Student Executive Council (SEC) boards. This is the first audit ever conducted for the SEC boards, completed in response to the introduction of the new SEC Constitution last April.

The audit was conducted to meet the SEC Constitution’s goals of higher financial transparency. The Constitution now requires each board on the SEC to make their budget available to the SEC Chair and USG Finance Committee. The seven SEC boards include the University Program Board (UPB), the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), the Interfraternity Council (IFC), the Panhellenic Council (PHC), the Class Officer Collective (COC), the Undergraduate Diversity Collaborative (UDC) and the University Media Board (UMB). They must answer any questions that the committee may have regarding their budget. This year’s audit had each board present their budget to SEC, and the USG Finance Committee graded each of their budgets by looking at four categories of interest and grading each on a five-point scale.

The four different categories are percentage for internal expenses, rollover, percentage for giveaways and overspending. Though each board is graded using the same grading metrics (they were scored on a scale from one to five, with one being the worst and five being the best), there is no unified standard that all of the boards have to meet. For example, one of the categories covers overspending of allocated expenses; this category is qualitative, as different SEC boards have different missions, so what is considered necessary spending for each board differs. This may complicate the grading of the boards, but it is an essential foothold to establish how the USG Finance Committee will approach future audits and other financial decisions.

The grades of each SEC board varied. While the USG Finance Committee reviewed some SEC boards positively across all of the categories, other boards received mixed audit grades.

IFC/PHC was notable for performing well in some categories and less favorably in others. The board had varying grades, scoring as low as a two for its high internal spending and as high as four for overspending and percentage of giveaways. The IFC/PHC saw a small portion of its budget go to giveaways, and overspending was kept largely to a minimum. There were a few notable exceptions, such as overspending on its Life After College event.

UPB received positive reviews from their audit, scoring a five in all of the categories except for overspending. With low internal spending, a small giveaway percentage and rollover totalling $24,000, UPB demonstrated a good use of their budget to the USG Finance Committee. Overspending prevented UPB from earning a perfect record, with high expenditures for traditions and on-campus events totalling over $10,000.

COC had room to improve, scoring a one in the categories of overspending and giveaway percentage. Deficits from fall 2015 were not resolved until this past spring semester, attributing to some higher expenses than expected. Other events that impacted the budget for COC include overspending on traditions and on the sophomore class. Finally, COC used 35 percent of its budget on giveaways, a portion not looked upon favorably by the Finance Committee.

The budget reports for each SEC organization, the USG Finance Committee grades for these budgets and notes on these documents are available for the student population to see. Establishing financial transparency is an important goal of the new SEC Constitution, and the USG Finance Committee is collaborating with the SEC boards to achieve this.

While, as a committee, we thought it ran well, there have been some concerns from members of both the SPR and SEC about the process and steps moving forward,” said Thomas Pierre, USG vice president of Finance. “The committee’s goal is to be as transparent as possible, so we will be working with these members to improve this process and make it as fair, transparent and as efficient as possible.”

The audit results will influence how funds are allocated to the boards in the future. The USG Finance Committee has the option to impose sanctions based on future audit grades, but this year’s audit will not produce such action.

Pierre notes that there is room for improvement in the future: “The committee understands that this is the first year for this process, so there will absolutely need to be changes and adaptations as we proceed.”