Overspending and unauthorized purchases by a student group highlighted the meetings of the 41st and 42nd ASWSU senates Wednesday night in the CUB.
The student group MEChA's budget has been enacted with probation due to abuse of funds from this year's budget.
MECha, which stands for Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan, is a student organization dedicated to better education and representation of the chicana/o community. The organization also provides students with scholarships and implements plans of action on issues affecting the community.
Before the senate meetings, the Budget Council met to discuss MEChA’s overspending on budgeted items and unauthorized purchases. District 10 Sen. Alex Smith presented to both senates on the council’s decision.
“The conclusion that the Budget (Council) came to was to reenact their budget with probation,” Smith said.
MEChA will have to pay back the money that was overspent, Smith said. Funds from the organization’s 2012-2013 school year budget will be put toward their debt, he said. However, the Budget Council has given them until June 30 to fundraise for money to cover their debt.
“They’re also responsible for the reimbursement of $440 for the amount allocated to unauthorized purchases,” Smith said.
The group used the $440 to purchase a camera and gift cards that had not been approved, Smith said.
The conditions of MEChA’s probation are to submit a budget each semester to the Finance Committee concerning any program they want to put on. They will also present a spending report to the senate once a month and they are mandated to attend a two-hour training session on finances.
“If the above requirements are not met the Budget (Council) has the authority to transfer the dollars that are given to MEChA in their S&A allocation from their committee to the senate’s budget as a whole,” Smith said.
He said if MEChA does not meet the conditions of probation, they will still have access to their funds but will have to ask the senate for permission to use the money. This consequence will allow the senate to control and supervise MEChA’s spending, he said.
Councilmember and District 1 Sen. James Cockburn explained the reasoning behind the probation. He said the council decided probation was the correct step because it was in the interest of maintaining the integrity and transparency of student dollar spending.
“The best way to accomplish that was to put these measures in place to ensure that the leadership in MEChA next year understand what their responsibilities and what their requirements are for spending student dollars,” Cockburn said.
MEChA explained the overspending was the result of unforeseen circumstances, Cockburn said. However, their budget is the money they are allowed to spend and if they spend more than that they must account for it, he said.
“The instances of overspending definitely were not anything malicious. It was just mistakes that were made that go against the guidelines that are set forth that our committees have to follow when they spend state dollars,” Cockburn said.
MEChA Treasurer and Business College Senator-Elect Erik Solorio expressed how the overspending occurred. Solorio said surplus funds in certain areas of the budget were spent in other areas. When the Budget Council reviewed the spending, some areas were more than the allocated amount and others were less than the allocated amount.
“So it kind of all just added up and that’s kind of how it got to this point,” Solorio said.
He said being treasurer of MECHA and an ASWSU senator will allow for better communication on next year’s budget. He said he is confident that MEChA will comply with all of the probation restrictions and will get back on track.
“I think it’s just kind of a misunderstanding, so it’s going to be easy to make sure nothing like this happens next year,” Solorio said.