Calls for financial transparency give birth to rumours, accusations
An executive member of the Engineering and Computer Science Graduate Association (ECSGA) alleges that his attempts to seek explanations for financial irregularities have caused him to become the target of retaliatory accusations, willing obstruction, and false rumours.
VP External Mohammad Rupom alleges this all began several weeks ago when he was approached by student members who showed concern with how their money was being spent. The matter dealt with independently-organized workshops created to deal with extra demand that, unlike regular workshops of that nature which provided refunds upon completion, would offer no money back.
Since later ECSGA documents touted these workshops as official achitevements, certain students took the position that if they were now considered official then so was the entitlement to the refund.
Rupom was one of the executives requesting a resolution and his desire for transparency went as far as to include the Dean of Students in the email correspondences—something he said first earned the ire of certain other executives who felt they should be been privately consulted. They say the claim of the extra workshops as official achievements was a typo—despite the documents will being widely accessible online.
Rupom claims another example of ECSGA financial untransparency was how he was expected to organize events as VP External. He says the council issued cheques in his name to be deposited in his account, and that he was uncomfortable with the idea as it could lead to financial vagueness. If true a source with extensive experience in student organizations called it a bizarre financial method not typically used.
When Rupom asked to see the bank books, he was told they were confidential and could only be seen on premises and not consulted at length in private—something he said was required if he was to be thorough in his analysis. He was also told the ECSGA was financially healthy and that an internal audit had been performed.
This audit was carried out privately by a four-member team including the President and VP finance, in addition to two other council members.
“The same people who had final say over finances were those who did the audit. It’s a clear conflict of interest,” he said.
VP Finance Mostapha Marzban replied by saying that the audit, although not perfect, was the first one ever performed by the organization and a signal to the desire for financial transparency.
It was presented during the group’s general assembly earlier in March during which a confrontation erupted between unsatisfied students and the presenters. A video of the proceedings obtained by The Concordian show that at one point both the chair and Marzban leave the room. Marzban claims they were temporary and for entirely different reasons.
“They did not have an answer to [student] questions, so they left,” said Rupom, who characterized the report as insufficient.
Marzban says they left for entirely different reasons and soon returned. He said the informal end of the GA—since the chair left by that point—did agree on an official audit to be performed in the future.
“Even if it takes $30,000 [to perform the audit], it will be worth it,” he said as a reiteration of his desires to see the ECSGA assume financial transparency.
Rupom believes this escalation is behind an anonymous letter surfacing on school grounds last week accused him—alongside Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC) President Nader Jafari Nodoushan—of transferring $14,000 dollars from TRAC to his bank account, to apply for permanent residency status. The letter claims the bank caught the fraud and suspended his account for six months. It accuses Rupom’s wife, Sonia Afrin, who is referred to as the former TRAC VP finance, of complicity. It ends by saying that if the information is false, the anonymous letter writer apologizes for the misinformation.
Official bank documents submitted to The Concordian do not appear to show any suspension or large transfer of money, and former TRAC executive Robert Sonin says no such amounts have been transferred out TRAC—at least before the winter. Finally, Afrin’s official title last year with TRAC was not VP Finance but Secretary Treasurer, a the position is the same in function even if the names aren’t. These inconsistencies, says Rupom, are proof the letter is unfounded.
Rupom believes this has been part of a concerted effort by certain members on the council to discredit him prior to the ECSGA elections taking place next week because of the attention he has drawn to its financial irregularities.