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Whitiriea head yet to see student accounts

Aug 16th, 2010 | By | Category: News

campbellWhitireia Polytechnic’s management has yet to see a set of accounts for the student association’s 2009 operations.

“How much they have spent is unknown to us,” said CEO Don Campbell (right), when asked to comment today about the police investigation into the association’s operations.

“A lot of the student association records are missing,” he said.

Mr Campbell said he is concerned that publicity about the association had not made it clear the body operates independently from the polytechnic.

Reputation was important when graduates were seeking jobs.

NewsWire put the following questions to Mr Campbell in a phone interview today:

Do you think there should be better systems in place for the polytech to manage student association fees?

You need to realise that the student association is completely independent. All the polytech can require is that the students association is audited. Yes, I think it should change.

Have you been wary of the funding situation?

This goes back a wee way.  Last year there was action taken by the then student association against the polytech.

That group was replaced by Loretta Ryder.

She (Loretta Ryder) was working quite constructively.  I had to give them the benefit of the doubt.  Things were proceeding well.

Had there been any concerns regarding the student association fees prior to this?

The relationship with the previous organisation was terrible. They wouldn’t talk to us.  Things were dire before she took over.  How they appoint is a mystery.

When was Loretta Ryder appointed as president of the student association?

At some stage last year.  [Whitireia has] no say over their constitution.

When did the Whitireia executive first become aware $750,000 was missing from student association funds?

[We] have yet to see a set of accounts of 2009.  How much they have spent is unknown to us.

What happens to $70,000 held back from the association?

This money is sitting in the Whitireia accounts as long as the association holds on to the audited accounts.

How does the polytech propose to support the police in their investigation?

I’m not sure what stage we are at.  A lot of the student association records are missing. You would be best to refer to the audit report and contact (president) Tim Manu.

Will  the polytech step in and supply tea, coffee, sugar and milk to the Whitireia Cuba St campus?

You would be best to raise these issues with Tim Manu.

Mr Campbell said he was concerned about the Dominion Post’s two front page stories on the issue so far because of the heading used that said “Whitireia scandal”.

He was also concerned no explanation was given by the newspaper that the student body is an independent association. Reputation was important when graduates sought jobs.

Earlier today, Whitireia was distancing itself from the issue.

In a press release sent to the Dominion Post – which broke the story on Saturday – and to staff, Mr Campbell pointed out that the students’ association is an independent body over which the polytech has no direct control.

The polytech collects the association’s student fees for it, but stopped handing over the money earlier this year when it became concerned about accountability.

Police are now investigating the matter after new association officers were alerted to problems by the association’s auditor.

In his statement, Mr Campbell said:

The Whitireia Independent Students Association (WISA) last Friday met with their auditor, Imran Kamal at his instigation.

He advised some potentially serious actions relating to expenditure which have been referred to the Police for further investigation.

The Polytechnic, despite having no legal control over the association which is an independent Incorporated Society, will support the Police in their investigation and those remaining at the association who are seeking to resolve these matters.

WISA, membership of which  is compulsory for all students, unless exempt,  under the current legislation, is an autonomous organisation with its own constitution, its own election of officers according to its constitution, and separate accounting, management and audit processes from the polytechnic.

WISA sets an annual levy, currently $135 up from $90 in 2008, for which the polytechnic is the collection agent, collecting the levy from students and paying to the association who spend it according to their own plans and priorities without requiring Polytechnic approval.

In 2009 approximately $345k was paid to the association but so far there has been no advice to the polytechnic about how much was actually spent in 2009 as we have not been provided with a set of accounts.

I understand expenditure was significantly more than income.

I became aware of a potential issue with the audit in June this year and advised the then President of WISA, Loretta Ryder, that payment of levies would cease until audited accounts had been provided.

Council and senior management were advised of potential issues at the same time.

Recently, the President was stood down and Tim Manu assumed the role of Acting President.  Last week I wrote to him reiterating the need for audited accounts.

The polytechnic is currently holding approximately $70k in levies collected but not paid to WISA for 2010.  This demonstrates a prudent approach under the current circumstances.

It is important to note that WISA, as with all student associations is independent from and separate to the institution whose students it represents.

We have no say over how they manage their business however there are large sums of money involved and accountability back to students can be tenuous and fraught depending on the approach taken by executives of the association.

We will be looking at a range of options in conjunction with WISA to strengthen their accountability and provide whatever assistance we can to improve the way they manage student funds.

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