In 2007 the ICU Executive Committee controversially agreed to hand over control of Union Finances to College. This was despite concerns that ICU would be throwing away the independence called for through the Governance Review. A new Finance Officer was recruited earlier this year to be employed by and responsible to the College Finance Department. Changes implemented under College financial management have already caused widespread disgruntlement within Club and Society Officers after contact time with finance staff was cut and the amount of red tape increased.
Worries that College would not be able to understand the demands and requirements of managing the finances of a volunteer led organisation are being realised this week after a number of incidents have been reported. Barely a day into her new role, ICU President, Jenny Morgan, was confronted with a request to hand over access to all the Union?s bank accounts to the College Finance Division. Standing her ground, Miss Morgan refused to rescind financial control, despite senior Union managers allegedly supporting the opinion that students were incapable of looking after the accounts themselves. Of course with statements lying around in and outside cupboards in the basement of Beit Quad it wouldn't take College much effort to find any information that they wanted.
This isn?t the first time that Sabbatical Officer authority has been challenged under the new management. A senior member of finance staff had originally considered the position of DPFS to be their 'helper' as opposed to their superior until they were informed otherwise. Furthermore, with three of the four Sabbatical Officers away on annual leave, the Finance Department have taken it upon themselves to set new ?policy?, in direct breach of the Staff/Student Protocol.
The Finance Department openly stated this week that they were changing the 'policy' for requesting an Imprest (an advancement of funds made to a member of the Union for goods or services which need to be paid cash-in-hand). Under current Union Finance Regulations the authorisation needed to request an Imprest is the signature of the relevant Deputy President but this regulation was overruled by the Finance Department insisting that their signature was insufficient and more evidence would be required. This sort of challenge on a Sabbatical Officer's authority, and clear misunderstanding of the protocol whereby staff members cannot comment on or influence ICU Policy, is a symptom of the incompatibility of Union activity with College Finance Procedures. It would seem that, in their eagerness to create the Imperial College Department of Students, College have underestimated the complexities of running a volunteer organisation of these proportions and are inadequately prepared to deal with a situation where students make the decisions.