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Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) president Maklane deWever has uploaded 10 years worth of audited financial statements to the RSU’s website.
“Basically, the idea was just to start the process of having easier access to financial information for students,” said deWever.
DeWever’s actions come in light of his impromptu election during the Board of Governors Feb. 11 meeting, after former RSU president Ram Ganesh was impeached.
Ganesh was impeached following allegations of financial mismanagement.
One of his most vocal critics has been deWever, a former member of the union’s Board of Governors, who shared the RSU’s credit card statements as soon as he gained access to them and noticed suspicious purchases.
Now as president of the RSU, deWever says he is making demonstrations of transparency to rekindle trust from the general membership in its student union.
“The thinking is that it’s public information,” deWever said about the financial audits. “If anybody comes to our front desk and asks for it, they’re able to get it. But I don’t want students to have to come to ask us for information, I just want to give it to them.”
Every year, an external auditor examines the RSU’s financial statements and delivers a report that is then available to the public. For the past three years, the external auditor has been PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). PwC is one of the largest professional services networks in the world, second only to Deloitte. The same firm is responsible for the ongoing forensic audit ordered by Ryerson University in light of recent allegations, according to deWever.
This financial audit information is available in packages created following the RSU’s semi-annual general meeting (SAGM), and all SAGM packages are made available online.
“But nobody knows that,” said DeWever. “Nobody knows what (SAGM) means.”
Noticing the lack of knowledge among both the student and university staff about publicly available information, deWever scanned the previous 10 years of financial audits – they were kept in a filing cabinet in the RSU office – and posted them individually on the RSU website.
He says he hopes to also make space on the union’s website for abridged versions of the financial statements and audits.
“Obviously it’s important to have the constating documents in the background,” he said. “But also things that are just more easy to understand.”
DeWever said he hopes his actions set a precedent for future generations of the RSU, who would now feel obligated to post their financial audits.
“It’s still not enough,” he said. “I think there still needs to be more intermediary finances. This is good as a retrospective look in the past, but there needs to be proactive reporting as well. And that should be online, too.”
In a previous interview with the Ryersonian, deWever said he hoped prioritizing transparency would help repair the relationship between the student body and the RSU.
He says that this comes at a concerning time for the RSU, which could have its budget slashed due to the provincial government’s changes to Ontario university tuition, giving students the option to opt out of ancillary fees that go to student groups.
The RSU, whose budget comes out of student tuition, would be among the groups that students can choose to no longer pay for as part of their tuition.
“People were trying to not be transparent to retain their power,” said deWever. “But you don’t build a student movement off of doing that, you don’t rally people behind the cause, and you don’t create an institution people want to pay for.”