• Thousands of bank transactions with no initial explanation
  • SU to apply for €900, 00o bank loan
  • Evidence of some union staff being paid in cash
  • Former SU Presidents say they are not to blame
  • University paid for rescheduling of last year’s UCD Ball

UCD Students’ Union accumulated  a €1.4 million debt over a four year period, an investigation into the union’s finances has revealed.The university has given the union a loan of almost €1 million to keep the student representative body afloat.

The investigation has laid bare the lack of a regulated accounting system, a lack of documentation, and serious difficulties in establishing a basic audit trail. The report found between 22,000 and 23,000 bank transactions made through UCDSU since 2007-2008, but between 8,000 and 10,000 of these had no initial explanation.

The union are expected to apply for a €900,000 bank loan when the investigation is completed in the coming weeks.

The loan the university has given to the union is an advance on their capitation funding. UCDSU receive  €700,000 in capitation funding each year – this equates to a €35 contribution from each UCD student per annum.

A figure of €400,000 was initially included in the €1.4 million debt. The figure arose, Pat de Brún, SU President claimed, from a mistaken assumption that the union was VAT exempt. “This sum is primarily borne out of poor budgeting. Previous SU budgets assumed wrongly that all our activities were VAT-exempt and people were paid without tax having been deducted,” said de Brún. That debt has subsequently been repaid.

The university, and not the union, also paid the costs associated with the rescheduling of last year’s UCD Ball it has emerged. Neither the university nor the union could confirm the total figure but one well placed source suggested it could be a six figure sum.

De Brún said the figures would be available later this week when all accounts are finalised and sent to audit. He told the College Tribune, “as for why they paid for it, that is a question for the University, but I imagine it came from the fact that it was actions on the part of the University that led to the original cancellation.”

The findings of the internal investigation by McNally Business Services, paid for by the SU and the university, were released to UCDSU members last Thursday. The findings reveal the SU has been in serious financial difficulty since at least 2007.

Gerry McNally of McNally Business Services Ltd revealed that not all monies had yet been fully accounted for and some cheque payees are still unclear. There is also evidence of some union staff members being paid in cash in the period under investigation.

De Brún said poor structures and a lack of individual responsibility and accountability contributed considerably to the accumulation of the debt.

Former SU Presidents claim they were unaware that the Union was in financial difficulty during their respective terms as president. Gary Redmond, UCDSU President in 2009/10 claimed that throughout his term as President he “constantly enquired about the financial status of the union and was reassured on every occasion that everything was within budget and that commercial services were turning a small profit.”

“If at any point I had become aware that either the SU or its commercial services were incurring a loss I would have taken corrective measures immediately to ensure the financial stability of the union long term,” he added.

Mr. Redmond is coming to the end of a two year term as President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), an organization which UCDSU is heavily in debt to.

UCDSU’s contribution accounts for a sixth of USI’s budget and at one stage last summer UCDSU owed almost €250,000 to USI. Redmond said that UCDSU have been paying USI in increments since the autumn.

Donie O’Sullivan