Originally published in Volume II, Issue 3 on 25th October 1995 by Observer Reporter.
Senior figures in society committees of the last three academic years have provided the University Observer with evidence that three particular balls have repeatedly had money misappropriated from them by students running the event.
The most serious abuse brought to life was the printing of one hundred extra tickets for one society ball by two committee members, without the rest of the society’s committee members being told. The individuals in question made a substantial profit after selling tickets without informing the committee of their existence.
It is apparently not uncommon that members of certain societies help themselves to a number of tickets, which they distribute cut price to friends,or sell at full price, without any money returning to the society running the event. The University Observer has also established that bouncers for society balls are frequently paid excessive amounts of money, and that some augment their income by letting in at the door for a bribe of £10. Franchises for looking after various aspects of the event are often awarded to friends of the committee members at inflated rates.
One ex-auditor told the Observer: “If you decide to take some of the cash, the likelihood is that you won’t get caught. If you decide to cover up, it is very hard for a senior treasurer to spot any discrepancies, unless they follow every step, which most senior treasurers don’t have time to do.” “In the past there have been discrepancies between the money taken in at the ball and the accounts at the end of the year. This could possibly be down to poor accounting in some cases or it could indeed be something more serious.”
The senior treasurer system has already come in for criticism over the past number of years as being an inadequate safeguard to prevent fraud in society accounts. Rossa Fanning, Law Society auditor and an incoming member of the Student Consultative Forum’s Finance Committee, proposes that accounts for large society events be more carefully scrutinised; “At the moment, you have to rely on the honesty and integrity of the incumbents. One proposal is that societies should be obliged to submit to the Finance Committee an itemised account for any event with more than a hundred people attending with receipts included that could be scrutinised by the committee.” “The current situation is quite lax in that there is no scrutiny of the accounts of balls or other social events run by larger societies. A middle man could easily anything up to £1000 on a large ball.”
“The Law Ball has never really been relied on upon us as a source of income because we have around three hundred and fifty people. Our policy is to give the committee one free ticket each and very few others good free, with the exception of a few tickets for newspapers, chaplains and lecturers.”
According to Societies Officer, Paddy O’Flynn, there are two main safeguards against financial fraud in societies. One is the fact that each cheque a society writes has to be signed by the Senior Treasurer, who must be a permanent member of UCD’s staff. This safeguard is circumvented by the fact that dealings for the balls are entirely in cash. The other safeguard is that societies must submit accounts to the Students Consultative Forum’s Finance Committee if they are to receive a grant for the following year. Mr O’Flynn said in a letter printed in our second issue that; “These accounts must contain details of finances of the society including money received from membership fees, sponsorship, admission receipts and any grants which were given by the committee in the preceding year. On receipt of these details, this committee decides on the appropriate level.”
However, there is no obligation on societies to publish these accounts, nor are they obliged to produce accurate accounts or receipts on income and expenditure relating to society balls or other society events.