READERS PLEASE NOTE: This article was published
The university requested the union undertake a forensic audit after allegations of financial mismanagement arose last year; RSU instead instructed PricewaterhouseCoopers to review credit card expenses.
Following a financial review, the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) audit committee found $99,477 in expenses, between May 2018 and Jan. 2019, that they couldn’t “verify the legitimacy” of.
The RSU’s financial report was released Feb. 3 at the union’s semi-annual general meeting (SAGM).
Completing a forensic audit was one of several conditions imposed by Ryerson administration on the RSU last January after the Eyeopener reported that credit card statements under the name of two former executives, showed thousands of dollars spent on food, alcohol, clothing and entertainment.
However, after retaining PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the RSU found that a “full forensic investigation would be expensive and would take a significant amount of time,” according to the review.
“Recognizing that its members were demanding answers, and being mindful of the need to responsibly spend its members’ money at a time when the University was withholding funds, the RSU instructed PwC to review the credit card expenses because the allegations of financial mismanagement centred on credit card purchases,” the review reads.
PwC’s work “does not constitute an audit conducted in accordance with generally accepting auditing standards,” a note in the review reads. PwC’s review found a total of $260,000 spent on three corporate credit cards from May 5, 2018 to Jan. 3, 2019. The cards were held by three former RSU executives: president Ram Ganesh, vice-president operations Savreen Gosal and financial controller Dharshini Jay.
PwC’s review categorized the expenses based on whether they had corresponding receipts or invoices for the expenses. The categorization found:
- $86,000 in transactions listed on a credit card expense form that had a corresponding receipt or invoice;
- $45,000 in transactions that had a corresponding receipt or invoice, but that had no credit card expense form;
- $2,000 in transactions listed on a credit card expense that had no corresponding receipt or invoice;
- $127,000 in transactions that had no corresponding receipt or invoice and no corresponding credit card expense.
The RSU’s financial review notes that while undocumented expenses in the fourth category don’t necessarily mean the money was spent, “it does mean the money was spent without following RSU’s financial policies.”
The RSU asked PwC to further examine these expenses. The RSU audit committee also reviewed $127,000 in undocumented expenses. It concluded that all of the expenses breached the RSU’s financial policies.
The audit committee was ultimately unable to verify the legitimacy of $99,477 in charges from this category.
The audit committee also found that the former RSU president retained a new lawyer for the RSU in March 2018.
In addition to incurring expenses for legal advice, the president approved and paid for the lawyer’s first-class trip to India.
Travel expenses totalled around $36,000 and were approved by the previous executive team.
As a result, the RSU reported the lawyer to the Law Society of Ontario, which found “insufficient information to warrant disciplinary action.” The RSU is still investigating the legitimacy of the expenses and whether they can be recovered.
Ryerson University terminated their operating agreement with the RSU Jan. 24, but the union is planning to go ahead with their upcoming elections. The union has not had a chief process officer (CRO) since Jan. 31 when the one they hired quit.
A number of motions were also voted on at the meeting. Students voted to approve a three-day student strike in March to “escalate the struggle against the OSAP cuts and for free education.” They also voted to eliminate the vice-president marketing position, an executive position that was added for the 2019-20 year.
This is a developing story and will be updated throughout the meeting
Correction: a previous version of this story referred to the RSU’s report as a forensic audit. It was in fact a financial review.