Ryerson Student Union executives are now facing a forensic financial audit for $700,000 in questionable credit card expenses over a 9 month period.
How does somebody even spend that much money in under a year?
I’ll tell you how. The expenses include LCBO visits, $2,000 night club bills, Airbnb stays and a $415,000 concert.
Since the story broke in January the $250,000 figure has ballooned almost 3 times in size.
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Several RSU executives are implicated in the alleged fraud including President Ram Ganesh and vice-president operations Savreen Gosal who have been suspended from the union since the allegations came to light.
Most of the expenses were billed through a student union credit card under Ganesh’s name
Is anybody surprised that giving university students (who most likely are themselves in debt) relatively unsupervised access to millions of dollars would go terribly wrong?
The RSU gets $2.7 million dollars from students who have no choice when it comes to contributing towards student fees.
As I’ve detailed in another column, the RSU scandal is only scratching the surface of a pervasive problem with corruption that plagues student unions throughout the country.
Student unions are surrounded by a kleptocratic culture that overlooks and even encourages misuse of student funds.
Another executive at the University of Regina Student Union, Haanim Nur, admitted to her school paper that she forged $700 in cheques under the union’s name.
“You hear rumours of other student union people being able to – I shouldn’t say the term loosely – but getting away with stealing funds. I know it was a stupid thing to do, and it was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done,” she said in a school paper interview in 2012.
Now, everybody is waking up to the fact that the rumours are true and that it’s a problem that has reared its head repeatedly in the past but has largely been ignored.
Students who fraudulently spend their peers’ money often get away with thousands of dollars with only a slap on the wrist.
The oversight is so minimal that that usually people only catch on to fraudulent spending after the fact.
In the case of the RSU, the executives have yet to even file any of their expense receipts to the official accountant.
It’s almost as if the system is set up to be abused. There’s no accountability or transparency there.
It’s time that student unions get a wake up call. Doug Ford is giving students the option to no longer sustain a bloated and incompetent bureaucratic system that only serves the interest of those elected by a small portion of the student population.
If most students were given the choice to opt out of paying union fees, they would save the hundreds of dollars and put it towards their own education.
Unions really dread the fact that students will have the option to choose for themselves, knowing that most students see them as unnecessary.
But I say take it one step further. The provincial government of Ontario should order all student unions throughout the province to produce an audit of their own finances.
Until now student unions have had easy sailing, in some cases being elected by nine percent of the student population.
Perhaps it’s time for some accountability and transparency, and not just for students but for the entire country as well.
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