Now we get to what for me was the most interesting (and strategic) part of my mandate. While taxes were being filed, and frosh reports were being made, I had to come up with a game plan to make sure the AUS did not ever find itself in the same position again, with regards to both taxes and annual audits. Like I’ve said before, the biggest hurdle to getting the audits and taxes done were the externalized departments.
AUS Wars Episode I: The Phantom (financial) Menace
Externalized departments had autonomy without any real responsibility. If they issued a cheque without any receipts to back it up, it would be the AUS’s problem to deal with. Also, problems with record-keeping were usually discovered near the end of the year, at which point it was too late to penalize.
There were two immediate solutions available- either reduce the autonomy they had or to increase their level of responsibility. The first required internalizing their bank account, which meant closing down their bank accounts and moving their funds to the AUS account. The second required the departments getting accredited and becoming completely autonomous of the AUS. In this case, they would need to complete their own audits and file their own taxes.
AUS Wars Episode II: Attack of The (McGill Admin) Clones
In our discussions with the Deputy Provost, the McGill admin did not appear too keen on the second option, as the more ‘radical’ departments were the ones seeking accreditation. Getting legally accredited would allow them to hold strike votes in case of a student protest movement, as they had wanted to do in the previous year against the raise in tuition proposed by the Quebec government. There were only a couple of departments interested in this, and I was all for helping them seek accreditation, if that’s what they wanted.
AUS Wars Episode III: Revenge of The (PSSA) Sith
I had to use whatever tools and leverage I had to get the restructuring implemented as quickly and with as little controversy as possible. I set up separate meeting with the Presidents and VP Finances of each of the affected departments, to break the idea of internalization vs externalization to them. As expected, the smaller and less radical of the departments were willing to internalize with very little contention. This got four of the eight external departments out of the way. Out of the bigger departments, both the ESA and DESA were willing to go along with internalization and the PSA wanted to get accredited. This then left only the PSSA, the biggest department in the Faculty of Arts, wanting to keep things as they were.
The PSSA president said it was duplicitous of me to meet with the departments one-on-one, instead of all together. This, of course, was exactly the point. Meeting one-on-one gave me more leverage. She then asked for a list of the affected departments and set out to arrange a meeting for the departments to discuss the restructuring imitative independently of the AUS. Out of the eight departments affected, only four showed up to the meeting: PSSA, ESA, PSA and DESA. The others had already made their decisions and were committed to them- all except for the ASA, which would wake up a few months down the line and realize it didn’t want to internalize after all.
AUS Wars Episode IV: Return of the (ESA) Jedi
I wasn’t invited to this meeting, so the departments drew up a list of questions to send me by email. Out of the four that attended, the ESA was still okay with internalization, the PSA still wanted accreditation, but DESA now seemed to be on the fence. I was in close contact with the ESA during all this, as I had been in the ESA the year before and knew the President fairly well. They kept me in touch with what was going on throughout.
AUS Wars Episode V: The (AUS) Empire Strikes Back
To be sure, the PSSA had legitimate concerns; it was just that something had to give for the AUS to be financially responsible again. The PSSA started reaching out to the media and other organizations on campus, to see if any other ideas could be brought to the table. I kept up communication with DESA, ESA, and PSA throughout the intervening time-period, to keep them up to date and to get a firm answer from them regarding their position as I wanted the restructuring to be completed as soon as possible. Firm answers form them would’ve also meant less support for the PSSA’s position to keep things as they were.
AUS Wars Episode VI: A New Hope
At this point, I had come up with and discussed a possible third solution with our accountants, who after much convincing, said it was workable. I set up a final meeting, and got the assembled departments together, and let them know that there was an alternative available. Everyone immediately accepted it as the best option, something which allowed the AUS to track departmental finances while allowing the departments to continue operating their bank accounts.
The PSA still wanted to seek accreditation, but everyone else was satisfied with what I had proposed. The departments would now have to input all their revenues and expenses on our accounting software before being allowed to conduct any transactions. They would still be responsible for the paperwork, but the idea was this would help keep their paperwork organized and help identify where mistakes had been made. This was also exactly how the AUS retail store, SNAX, functioned.
Throughout this process, I had to manage keeping the departments happy and keeping the media from blowing this up into a big political debate while accomplishing what I wanted for the AUS.
In the next post, I will go over what I had wanted done with the third option- what my ideal outcome would have been.