Written by: Zoe Yap Xiu Hai and Cheah Wei Shang
On the 8th of May 2020, the Annual General Meeting was held by the Monash University Student Association (MUSA). The meeting included not just student council members, but student representatives from various departments. However, something was different this year – the meeting was held on Zoom! Despite the movement control order issued by the government, students met online with the objective of discussing MUSA 2019 and 2020’s financial accounts and spending. Starting at 6:15 pm, the MUSA Treasurer of 2020 first presented the auditor’s 2020 report regarding MUSA 2019’s accounts. This was verified by 2020 auditors: Yap Yuk Mun, Mok E Liz, Toh Jin Hang and Lexuan Lai.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Before we go on, let me briefly explain what the Trust Fund is. To begin with, the budget that MUSA usually gets is from the Student Services Amenities Fees (SSAF) paid by every student of the University. Earlier in 2019, the university administration and MUSA decided that they should follow our Australian counterpart’s system (Monash Australia), to split the SSAF into the Trust Funds and the MUSA Budget 60-40 respectively. For 2019, the Trust Fund, together with MUSA funds, was used to bolster some of 2019’s biggest events such as the Monash Ball and the Monash Cup (This hence ties the overall budget for the events with funds from both sources). The Trust Funds would be managed by Student Life, which is part of the University Administration. Hence, this would lead to the complications seen below. However, the future may see the Trust Fund used for longer-term, student-centric quality of life projects.
Here, several issues were highlighted. Firstly, the 2019 financial report was not concluded to be in true and fair view. The report was only prepared with 40% of MUSA funds. The previous treasurers had attempted to collect the financial report accounting for the 60% Trust Funds from Student Life, to no avail. This caused several issues as expenses from the Trust Fund and MUSA Funds are tied with one another. Due to the MCO, auditors were unable to obtain raw data from 2019. Without the proper resources, no auditing will be complete. Secondly, improper bookkeeping had affected the report. When approaching the previous treasurers, 2019 data was found to be incomplete. Meeting participants discussed and agreed that the unclear method of recording transactions, unreported liaising of departments with Student Life and the introduction of the new budget system had contributed to this.
Students then discussed the miscommunication within school departments regarding subsidies. When discussing the Vice Presidents’ budget, questions were raised on the reduced amount of subsidies used in comparison to 2018. The Vice President of 2019 pointed out that fewer students were submitting proposals, saying they could not contact the VPs. This could snowball into a bigger issue for future VPs, as they would have difficulty requesting for the same amount. The current VP faces the problem of the MCO – fewer subsidy requests would lead to a shortage of funds. The deduction was that the missing 60% Trust Funds had left them unclear on how much was actually spent.
On the 2019’s Activities Chairpersons, specifically the Monash ball, there was an excess of over RM30 000 spent when compared to the initial budget proposed, on paper. In reality, the total amount spent was in fact estimated to be around RM200 000, where on paper it was RM 130 000. There was no explanation on the discrepancy between the proposed and actual expenditure, chalking it up to poor bookkeeping and rerouting the issue back to the issue of the missing raw data. The Clubs and Societies reports also faced the same issue – the lack of data and proper bookkeeping saw the figures of several events such as the Monash Cup and several external events having much higher actual expenditure figures.
On the subject of MUSA 2020’s budget plans, there were numerous cuts to the budget as the majority of the events were planned months before the Movement Control Order (MCO) was announced. The important points were that the budget would fall likely by 50%, and that any new initiatives would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by MUSA before approval. (Post AGM update: This fall in budget is not expected to be the case next year, 2021)
To summarize the meeting:
- Missing data from Student Life on the topic of Trust Funds led to an improper financial report, along with incomplete auditing.
- The submission of fewer proposals for subsidies in 2019 could cause a cut in the budget for said subsidies this year. Additionally, the Movement Control Order (MCO) situation would also cause a cut in said funds.
- Many budgets were cut due to the MCO, with the fall in the neighborhood of 50%.
The meeting was then adjourned at about 8.30 pm. A short farewell was given by the former president, Soh Zu Peng, congratulating the current MUSA but yet also advising on the dangers of improper bookkeeping. Everyone left the long meeting after a sincere thank you.