Election Latest: Former CUSU Sabbatical officer slams Presidential Candidate's record

With voting underway in the 2012 Cambridge University Students' Union (CUSU) Elections, a former CUSU Sabbatical officer has slammed the record of CUSU Presidential candidate, Akilah Jeffers, during her time as head of the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students campaign, accusing her of a huge overspend.

Alex Wood, CUSU Coordinator for 2010/11, has claimed that the BME students campaign was left with a financial deficit of almost 100% of its allocation from the central CUSU budget.

The BME students campaign is an autonomous CUSU campaign, receiving direct funding from the CUSU central budget but with the power to run its own affairs, and direct its own activities.

According to Wood, who as Coordinator would have overseen the allocation of the CUSU budget to autonomous campaigns, "The BME students campaign was allocated £900 for campaigns in 2010-11 from the central budget, and £1150 was spent. There was also an expectation of bringing £600 back to the central budget in profits from the BME careers fair, which also to my knowledge never materialized."

"The emergency overspend came out of the central budget, ultimately leaving the amount taken from the central budget for the BME campaign's activities £850 or so greater than was budgeted for (taking into account the net effect of not receiving the expected £600 budgeted for the careers fair) in 2010-11."

The BME Students Campaign in 2010/11 therefore cost CUSU 94% more (£1750, rather than £900) than was originally budgeted for.

The BME Careers Fair, organised every year by the BME campaign, was expected to make £600 for the CUSU central budget as "it regularly did in the past – which had been budgeted for as a result", according to Wood. He went on: "For reason we were not fully aware of, this was not made last year, which was a further deviation from budget".

His comments were prompted by a comment made yesterday on the Facebook page ‘Vote Akilah Jeffers for CUSU President' by resigned TCS Editor Phil Brook, which asked: "Just one more, is it true you bankrupted the BME Students campaign?"

Jeffers promptly denied such allegations, and defended the overspend, writing: "There were surpluses from sponsorship from 2009/10 which the previous committee had advised (based on the advice they had received) were to be kept as reserve for the Campaign by CUSU going forward in 2010/11. These monies formed the basis for the budget for activities in 2010/11, which were planned in early Easter 2010. However, this advice was later found to be inaccurate as any end of year surplus for an autonomous campaign is transferred to the CUSU general budget.

However, TCS understands that it has never been part of CUSU practice to advise that surpluses for autonomous campaigns are carried forward to following years, raising serious questions about Jeffers competence as she seeks to become CUSU President.

TCS has contacted Jeffers for a direct comment, and for clarification as to what happened to the £600 of profits that were expected from the BME Careers Fair, but she has failed to respond.

Jeffers also denied a further suggestion by Brook that the Cambridge Union Society's Caribbean Christmas Party, run in association with CUSU Ents last term while Jeffers was the Union Society's Social Events Officer, made a loss, asserting: "We broke even, and there were more than 250 happy party goers". She has nevertheless failed to supply TCS with a copy of her financial records for the night. Sources involved with the running of the night have told TCS that Jeffers also apparently planned the event without formulating a budget, choosing to write one after the event instead. One sources who asked not be named confirmed: "Yes, the event broke even, but only due to massive last minute cost-cutting. Throughout the event, other than her general level of disorganisation - it was felt that she had no idea what the break-even point was; this was as result of, in my opinion, her not keeping proper records of her expenditure nor establishing a proper budget. I believed throughout that she did not know what she was spending at the event, and this was further confirmed after the event – when she said that she was speaking to the Bursar the following day to actually find out the final costs of her event. "

This is not the first controversy that Jeffers has been embroiled in during her campaign. Last Tuesday, she was given two written, formal warnings from the CUSU Elections Committee for violating election rules. The violations were "promoting her candidacy on a pre-existing event, group or page" and "receiving an endorsement on her Facebook event which was not removed in a timely fashion and she had 'liked'".

There have been further reports of ‘dirty tactics' during this year's election campaigns. Campaign posters for Vicky Hudson, a candidate for CUSU Access Officer have been taken down in some colleges, and the space then filled with posters for other candidates. In Girton College, a poster of Hudson was purportedly replaced by one of Access opponent Thom Kirkwood. Later, one of Akilah Jeffers was placed next to it.

Last week, TCS reported that a website carrying the masthead "BEN GLINIECKI FOR CUSU PRESIDENT - For a Fighting Student Union", was online for at least three days before candidates were allowed by CUSU Election Rules to begin campaigning.

However, TCS has learned that Gliniecki will not be reprimanded by the elections committee for his actions, despite the website being easily found via Google.

CUSU President Gerard Tully told TCS: "He was not , on the grounds that someone found and publicised it, and (we believe) he didn't publicise the link anywhere before noms close. Obviously happy to consider any evidence to the contrary."

In further election news, a rather obnoxious email sent by last term's Chairman of Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA) Matthew Johnson to the CUCA mailing list today has called for members to "vote for those who will be least competent at running the student union fight against the government" since "no-one with Conservative beliefs wants to stand for these 'jobs' ".

Johnson recommended ranking RON (Re-Open Nominations) as the first preference candidate in the presidential election, followed by Ben Gliniecki, who Johnson described as "a full-on communist, we can rely on him to marginalize CUSU's voice in national politics", and then by Akilah Jeffers, who Johnson dismissed as "hilariously incompetent".

UPDATE: Damning official statement by the CUSU Elections committee

An official statement by the CUSU Elections Committee has provided damning evidence of CUSU Presidential candidate Akilah Jeffers' financial mismanagement whilst head of the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students campaign – and exposed several apparent untruths told by Jeffers on her official campaign Facebook page.

The statement, released at 8pm yesterday, reads: "The Elections Committee has received a complaint about a recent statement made by Akilah Jeffers on her Facebook event concerning her time as President of the Black Students' Campaign (now the Black and Minority Ethnic Campaign) in 2011-12.

"The Elections Committee does not see it as its role to rule on the veracity or otherwise of individual statements made by candidates in the election. That is the role we hope is played by vigorous campaigning by all candidates and their campaigners, holding each other's statements to account in the public arena.

"However, to clarify any factual queries, we have made enquiries of CUSU's full time staff and officers, and can provide the following factual information to clarify these issues. We can confirm that:

In March – February 2010-11, the total amount spent by the Black Students' Campaign was £2289.65. The total income of the Black Students' Campaign was £400. The overall budget deficit in this period was therefore £1889.65, compared to the £500 we budgeted to spend above income (the 'budgeted loss'). This is the worst financial performance in 2008-12.

It was not the case that the Black Students' Campaign recorded the highest level of sponsorship in the history of the campaign in 2010-11. No record of sponsorship deals – which have to be formally signed off by the CUSU Coordinator – could be found for 2010-11.

In 2009-10, the Black Students' Campaign recorded a 'budget surplus' of £414.56. However, surpluses do not – and have never – rolled over and are not kept in reserve for specific campaigns in the future. Campaigns may only spend what is budgeted for them in the annual CUSU budget. Part time officers are expected to be aware of and manage their own budget."

The second point seems to refute a claim made by Jeffers on her Facebook page where, in response to the question "... is it true you bankrupted the BME Students campaign?" posed by resigned TCS Editor Phil Brook, she wrote: "No this is not true. I secured the highest amount of sponsorship in the campaign's history".

TCS is still awaiting comment from Akilah Jeffers regarding both the above article, and this most recent statement.

UPDATE – Presidential Candidate has 200 votes deducted for election misconduct

With voting in the CUSU Elections closing this evening, Akilah Jeffers' hopes of becoming CUSU President received a huge setback today as she was docked 200 first preference votes in her candidacy for both CUSU President and NUS Delegate by the CUSU Elections Committee.

A statement by the CUSU Elections Committee read: "Akilah Jeffers has been docked 200 first preference votes in her candidacy for both CUSU President and NUS Delegate by the CUSU Elections Committee. This is due to her sending Facebook messages to people who were not - Facebook or otherwise - her friends, in clear breach of the rules. This is the fourth time Elections Committee has ruled against her and the ruling reflects this."

Yesterday, Jeffers also received a campaigning ban of five hours between 14:00 and 19:00 today "as a penalty for planning to participate in part of a college-organised Q&A session at Girton specifically organised to promote her candidacy, without such an opportunity being made available to all other candidates and without informing Elections Committee of this (a hustings at Girton had already been organised by the Elections Committee).

"She also received an endorsement from the organiser of the event (who is not a member of CUSU) without informing Elections Committee of this. This penalty follows two previous formal written warnings given to Akilah Jeffers (18:00 Tuesday 28th February)."

The two earlier warnings were for "promoting her candidacy on a pre-existing event, group or page" and "receiving an endorsement on her Facebook event which was not removed in a timely fashion and she had 'liked'".

TCS continues to await any comment from Akilah Jeffers regarding both the above article, and these most recent updates.

Judith Welikala & Michael Yoganayagam

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