CUSU now three-months delayed in publishing 2015/16 finances

Image credit: Charity Commission website

Cambridge University Student Union (CUSU) is now over three months late with filing its annual report and accounts with the Charity Commission, in the midst of ongoing concerns regarding its financial security and transparency.

As a registered charity that has an annual income of over £10,000, CUSU is legally required to file important financial information with the Charity Commission within ten months of the end of each financial year; however, CUSU’s information for the financial year 2015/16 was not filed before the 30th April 2017 deadline – currently 96 days ago.

At a CUSU Council meeting on 1st May 2017, JCR Presidents raised concerns about CUSU’s finances when the-then CUSU President Amatey Doku presented a draft Budget for 2017/18 which would run at a significant deficit of -£75,888. This indicated that the charity’s reserves would continue to be significantly depleted over the next academic year.

At the time, CUSU General Manager Mark McCormack tried to assuage fears about transparency by stating that “auditors will be filing a £59,000 loss this week” for the 2015/16 financial year in answer to a question calling for clarity surrounding CUSU’s structural deficit; however, confirmation of this figure has still not appeared on the Charity Commission’s website.

One member at the Council described the situation as “a major failure”, and another suggested there had been “mismanagement” concerning the rapid depletion of reserves.

President of Emmanuel JCR, Connor MacDonald, commented on the current situation: “I look forward to a detailed and satisfactory answer when Council convenes again in Michaelmas. If such an explanation is not forthcoming, and CUSU has indeed failed to comply with the Charity Commission, it obviously does not speak well to its abilities to discharge its duties.”

Upon The Cambridge Student requesting clarification on the issue of non-compliance with the Charity Commission and asking who is responsible for the delay, the new CUSU President Daisy Eyre remarked that “this is a simple bureaucratic delay and I don't really see it as a blameworthy matter.”

“The submission of CUSU's accounts to the Charity Commission was delayed due to the process of getting to grips with the new charity accounting framework (the FRS 102). The basic accounts themselves had been complete and finalised since March (well ahead of the April 30th deadline for the Charity Commission), but the new system involved more protracted communication between ourselves and our accountants, which I am fully confident will be normalised in time for next year.”

The FRS 102 framework was made compulsory to adopt for all financial accounts with a financial year start-date after January 2016, 15 months before CUSU’s end-of-year deadline. Although CUSU’s unpublished annual report and accounts pertain to a financial year which started before 2016, the FRS 102 was seemingly adopted by the external accountancy firm used by CUSU in advance by choice.

This is not the first time that CUSU’s financial difficulties have seemingly stemmed from complicated relations with external organisations. In May, Amatey Doku corrected journalists in an email sent to the student press, after reports had, he stated, “misrepresented” CUSU’s relationship with publisher St James House. The reports were based on Doku’s account of the relationship relayed at the CUSU Council meeting.

He later clarified that CUSU’s difficulties were “attributable to its historical over-reliance on funding from St James House”.

In response to charges of financial mismanagement and a lack of transparency, Eyre stated: “I feel that the review on financial mismanagement that was voted through CUSU Council and is due to take place next year is best placed to make a comment on this issue.

“I'm really hoping that the way we have responded to the queries of TCS and other student media about this has displayed our transparency. As an organisation, we exist to represent students and we are open to any requests for information.”

According to Eyre, the annual report and accounts for 2015/16 are expected imminently.

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