Student Organization Finances Under Review

Student Governance Services (SGS) is conducting a review of all student organization financial accounts after SGS realized that employees who performed a software upgrade in 2008 and 2009 might have incorrectly input account balances. Although SGS does not suspect any money was stolen, the audit has revealed both over- and under-reporting of account balances, according to Senior Director of Finance Lina Vargas.

Student organizations currently do not know their actual account balances, said Graduate Student Government Association (GSGA) Vice President of Finance Aaron Bocian (19B), who urged organizations to only spend funding that was allocated to them this year.

“We’re asking students to spend just within the amount they’ve been budgeted, even if they potentially know they might have some contingency money left,” Bocian said.

Bocian said the issues arose during Emory’s transition from Financial Accounting System (FAS) to PeopleSoft Compass in 2008 and 2009.

“There has been some disagreement between [what] the system reports and what actual account balances are as a result of what the ‘newly’ entered starting balances were in 2008/2009,” Bocian wrote in a Nov. 16 email to the Wheel.

Bocian said SGS is reviewing clubs chartered under both GSGA and Student Government Association (SGA), although not every student organization’s balance was affected by the errors.

“My understanding is that they are reviewing all accounts under SGA and GSGA to ensure everything is up to par,” Bocian wrote in a Nov. 16 email to the Wheel. “This doesn’t mean that [every] account is impacted, but they’re covering their bases.”

Campus Life hopes to complete the audit and issue recommendations by early Spring 2019, according to Vargas.

In 2013, SGA realized that the same software upgrade caused staff to overfund University-wide organizations (UWO) and employee accounts by about $212,000, the Wheel previously reported. The overfunded accounts included Student Programming Council (SPC), Media Council, Outdoor Emory, Club Sports and SGA’s administrative and business office staff salaries.

During the upgrade, SGS employees entered an incorrect account code and transferred money that was supposed to remain in SGA’s contingency account. The contingency account is used for SGA-sponsored events and supplemental funding for student clubs.

Divisional councils were not affected by the error, according to a 2013 SGA statement. Student leaders agreed to a multi-year “repayment plan.”

SGA Vice President of Finance Paul Park (17Ox, 19B) said he was informed of the audit during the week of Nov. 12 but was not familiar with the details, except that SGS is currently looking into student organizations’ account balances. He said no student organizations have contacted him with complaints about the process.

Park later said he didn’t consider the review to be an “audit” and characterized it as a “best practice” that all institutions perform.

“[The review], coming from an accounting perspective, is just going through the balances and making sure each account is correct and trued up,” Park wrote in a Nov. 21 email to the Wheel. “This is a best practice that all organizations, including Fortune 500s, do.”

College Council (CC) Vice President of Budget Hithardhi Duggireddy (20C) wrote in a Nov. 17 email to the Wheel that he was not aware SGS is performing an audit of student club accounts.

Meredith Honeycutt, who served as SGA business manager during the software upgrade and retired in June 2017, declined a request for an interview but wrote in a Nov. 27 email to the Wheel that an issue with club balances was corrected 10 years ago.

I have no idea what they think they are working on,” Honeycutt wrote. “I assure you the mistake was caught and corrected under the guidance and supervision of Eric Bymaster, the CFO of Campus Life.”

Bymaster left Emory for Vanderbilt University (Tenn.) in 2016. He declined an interview and redirected the Wheel to Associate Vice President of Campus Life David Clark. Clark also declined an interview and redirected the Wheel to Senior Director of Communications for Campus Life Tomika DePriest, who provided written responses to the Wheel’s questions from Vargas. SGS Associate Director VonYetta Hunter declined an interview.