By Jarita Kassen
This article is exclusive to the online Edition 1 of VARSITY Newspaper.
On Wednesday, 14 March, 2018, Student Parliament held its first ordinary sitting. SRC President, Karabo Khakau, stated in her political report that the SRC account has been frozen. Khakau further stated that this action was taken by the Director of Student Development, Edwina Brooks.
The SRC Treasurer-General, Emily Johansson, resigned from her position in early February and her resignation was subsequently accepted later in February, as confirmed by Brooks. This SRC executive position is still vacant. Prior to her resignation, Johansson told Khakau that Khakau should act on her behalf in the event of her absence as stated in the political report at Student Parliament.
Khakau further alluded to the fact that the SRC account was still being used despite the vacant position of Treasurer-General. The Department of Student Affairs asks that each student organisation or governance structure have 4 signatories, one of which must be the Treasurer. Brooks confirmed that the signatories for the SRC account, following Johansson’s resignation, were Karabo Khakhau (President), Tami Jackson (Secretary-General) and Dylan Greenstone (Deputy Secretary-General). These three members have been signing for funds since the beginning of their SRC term in office.
On 7 March 2018, the SRC voted to change their signatories but failed to inform the relevant staff of such changes. Following this, Khakau objected to the staff about the changes in signatories but it is for the SRC and not the staff to decide on this change, said Brooks. Brooks added, “this is an untenable situation in addition to the vacancy, poses governance and financial risk; and the staff could inadvertently be complicit in irregular or unauthorised spending.”
On Thursday, 8 March, Brooks wrote to the entire SRC requesting formal input on her intention to freeze the funds, pending a resolution of the Treasurer-General vacancy and the signatories. Brooks added, “to date, no formal input was received and the ‘freeze’ is in effect.” The implications of the ‘freeze’ extend to the SRC members being unable to conduct transactions such as withdrawing petty cash, reimbursements, requesting purchase orders or making any payments from the fund.
The further implications of the ‘freeze’ affect the SRC #DebtZero campaign as the SRC is unable to spend funds to activate the campaign. Brooks added, it is unusual and irregular that a Treasurer-General is not in place to ensure proper spending, reporting and financial oversight for a campaign of this magnitude. The success of the campaign itself and the SRC’s ability to raise funds are compromised if these issues remain unresolved.”
Brooks stated that in order for the account to be “unfrozen”, the Treasurer-General role must be filled and the issue of signatories must be resolved, in an effort to eliminate the governance and financial risk.
Members of Student Parliament voted on a motion, put forward by Christopher Logan, Undergraduate Academics Co-ordinator, which stated, “I propose the motion that Student Parliament bind the current SRC to a full portfolio reassignment within 72 hours.” Filling the vacant Treasurer-General position was entailed in this motion. The vote results were as follows, 54 members voted “yes”, 10 voted “no” and there were no abstentions. As these results do not constitute a two-third majority of Student Parliament, the decision was not binding and merely taken as a recommendation to the SRC.
On Monday 19 March, the SRC voted to accept the recommendation with a simple majority in favour. The constitutionality of the reassignments, however, are now in question. The Treasurer-General position is no longer vacant as Christopher Logan (DASO) has been reassigned to it. It remains unknown as to whether the accounts are now “unfrozen”.
VARSITY attempted to speak to the SRC executive about this pertinent issue but has not yet had a response.
*writer is a member of Student Parliament