Last January 23, the Legislative Assembly (LA) passed a resolution that seeks to establish an appropriation fund for the University Student Government (USG) and Council of Student Organizations (CSO). Through this fund, USG units and recognized organizations under CSO will be able to request for additional funding for their projects upon the discretion of the LA.
In an interview with Rupert Laurel, Executive Treasurer of the USG, he explained that all Executive Board (EB) offices share one account, and it is up to the Office of the Executive Treasurer (OTREAS) to segregate these funds according to their books. The problem with this set-up is that some deposits to the account do not specify to which office the money belongs. This leaves OTREAS unsure of which offices to delegate these amounts.
Aside from cases of unidentified deposits to the EB account, the savings of graduating USG units are transferred to a single account at the end of the year, and have since then been left untouched.
Both the unspecified amounts in the EB account and the summation of the graduating units’ accounts increase steadily each year and, as of press time,
accumulate to P946,999.09.
The LA, in coordination with OTREAS and CSO, has taken the initiative to find a way to fairly distribute the money among the different student units. They see the establishment of an appropriation fund as a way for the savings to be maximized by other units in need of additional budgets.
“One of the very big roles of senates in real governments is that they approve all spending of the government, so it’s something that we took as a parallel power of the LA,” explains Patrick Kahn, Chief Legislator and one of the authors of the resolution. “Also subscribing to the power given by the constitution of the USG, it’s our role to approve the USG budget and pertinent policies of the student government.”
He further expounds on the rationale behind the fund being accessible to CSO, despite the council being an entity separate from the student government. With the USG and CSO having the common goal to promote student life and welfare within the University, the authors deemed it fit to open the appropriation fund to accredited organizations under the CSO as well.
USG’s version of PDAF?
Some students have raised concerns about the appropriation fund’s similarity to the Priority Development Assistance Fund, otherwise known as pork barrel. Both funds leave the spending of government savings to the discretion of legislators without many clear-cut requirements.
Both Laurel and Kahn are quick to defend the appropriation fund and explain the differences between the two. While spending through the PDAF relies solely on the legislator’s discretion, the approval process of the proposed USG appropriation fund is very specific, designed to ensure that the money goes to a legitimate project.
To start, the project must be approved by Dean of Student Affairs Fritzie De Vera, as well as other activity monitoring bodies of the USG and CSO. The unit requesting for money must then contact an LA representative to draft a resolution requesting for the amount they need. This resolution must then be discussed in the following LA session and approved by a majority vote. If the resolution is approved, OTREAS shall have the amount book transferred to the account of the requesting body. There will be no actual exchange of cash among officers.
Sustainability and implementation
In the resolution, the proposed appropriation fund shall be sustained in two ways. When a USG unit graduates, the remaining balance in their accounts will be siphoned into the appropriation fund. Also, a yearly contribution of 20% shall be claimed from the funds of other USG units. Originally a point of contention in the LA, the second provision was retrained to sustain the fund over the years to come.
After a month of discussion, the resolution was passed after undergoing four readings. The LA, OTREAS, and CSO shall now work on having the fund established by the end of the current term.