The DLSU University Student Government (USG) released its first ever budget transparency report, which detailed down the current balances of various USG units, last January 22. From the report, students can also monitor the activities being organized by the Executive Board (EB), as well as their respective batch governments and college governments.
According to Executive Treasurer Brian Chen, the organizational chart of the USG this year has already been streamlined, making it easier for various units to communicate. “Ang sistema namin ngayon, nagsasaluhan talaga kami. Walang redundancy. I think that’s the benefit of having an [EB] family. Tulungan talaga siya,” he shares.
“Save OVPEA and OSEC balances”
In the report, it can be noticed that the Office of the Vice President for External Affairs (OVPEA) and Office of the Secretary (OSEC) have zero balances. Prior to this, Chen narrates that when he came into office, the OVPEA and OSEC had negative balances of around P29,000 and P25,000, respectively. “So what we did was to come up with [fundraising activities] (FRA). My office was the one who handled [the activities],” he adds.
The first FRA was a t-shirt selling, which was done mainly as a quick fix for the deficits of the two offices. “Pero it wasn’t enough, kasi P54,000 yung deficit ng both offices. Hindi siya kaya nang isang shirt selling lang,” Chen explains, “so simultaneously gumawa kami ng sports fest.”
The two FRAs generated a total of around P130,000. P54,000 was allocated to OVPEA and OSEC, rendering their balances zero as shown in the transparency report. The remaining P76,000 was allocated to the Student Government Assistance Fund (SGAF), the loan program of the USG.
Clarifying zero balances in other units
Some USG units have zero balances in the report, such as the Commission on Audit (COA). Chen explains that COA usually has an operational fund allocated by the University administration. “Pero ngayon wala pa dun sa transparency report kasi yung budget hasn’t been passed pa in the [Legislative Assembly] (LA). Laging dinadaan sa LA ‘yan,” Chen adds.
As of the time the report was released, COA’s operational fund is zero, because its main goal is to audit. Moreover, it is not an “FRA body” unlike the EB, college governments, and batch governments. The same goes for other units like the LA, Department of Activity Approval and Monitoring, and Activities Assembly.
On the other hand, the DLSU Science and Technology Complex Government (STCG) has two accounts, one from DLSU and another from STC. In the Taft campus, the STCG has no depository fund, simply because their FRAs are held in the Canlubang campus. They are still given operational funds by the DLSU administration, albeit relatively small, because they are also given a separate fund in STC.
Meanwhile, for some college batches who have zero balances, Chen explains that there are two possibilities: either they did not organize an FRA or they already spent the additional funds they gained from an FRA. “Usually mga zero na batches, 115 if I’m not mistaken, one year palang naman sila in the University, and probably hindi nakagawa ng FRA yung previous elected officers sa kanila. For the frosh naman, kakapasok palang nila, so they don’t have enough time to raise funds,” Chen explains.
On the other hand, the older batches usually do not have funds because they are no longer active. However, Chen says that some batches reach P50,000 in depository funds due to successful FRAs in the past.
Despite the lean years, the USG only had a budget cut of around P4,000 this year. In comparison, the administration offices received a budget cut of around 18 percent.
According to Chen, however, underspending has been one of the main challenges in terms of finances. “At least, based on last year, parang umabot kami ng P100,000 na hindi nagastos as a USG, as a whole na ‘yun. So that’s a sign of underspending, which is not optimal for the USG. Kung baga we could have spent more. We could have done more initiatives na probably napansin ng student,” Chen explains.
One of the difficulties encountered was that the budget is allocated on a per college and batch level. “So kung hindi ginalaw ‘yun ng batch level, hindi ko rin naman puwede yun galawin, kasi sa kanila nga ‘yun eh. Ang mangyayari diyan, ibabalik ko lang,” Chen shares.
Another challenge is aligning the processes between OTREAS and the Accounting Office. Chen claims that there are certain policies or rules that become implemented suddenly, such as the requirement of a memorandum of agreement for direct payments with company partners.
Another such policy was introduced during the second week of January when the Accounting Office stopped providing official receipts (OR) for the loan transactions of the OTREAS’ grantees. “Yung OR sobrang crucial nun. Kasi diba mag-beep ID, pag mag-beep, OR dapat ipapakita. Ngayon, hindi sila naglabas ng OR. What they will release na raw is a credit memo, which would take one week daw of processing,” he explains. “I’ve set a meeting with them, to align with their policies and to bring up our concerns as the USG. I’ll be raising all the points in our meeting.”
Future budget allocations and projects
According to the report, the OTREAS has a balance of P842,098.63, the highest among other USG units. “Almost all [that] came from the [Christmas Bazaar]. We generated around P783,000,” Chen claims. “Pero kasi under OTREAS, may dalawang accounts ako.”
These are the SGAF and Centralized Scholarships and Allowance Fund (CSAF). As of press time, the balance of P783,000 has not been transferred to these two accounts. Chen, however, elaborates that he previously publicized in social media that around P400,000 will be allocated to CSAF, while P383,000 will be for SGAF.
In terms of future projects, Chen says that one of his office’s flagship projects is the SGAF. Under this project, 20 students are granted allowance of P500 per week for over ten weeks in a term. The program has only two main criteria for applicants: that their parents must have an income tax return of P700,000 below, and that the student is currently not receiving any other allowance grants from the University.
Overall, the OTREAS will shell out P100,000 for this project. Chen shares that the revenue from the bazaar helped keep the SGAF sustainable. To make it even more sustainable, he plans on lobbying bazaar allocation and the allowance program on the LA floor.
“Aside from [SGAF and CSAF], itutuloy ko yung [Lasallian Scholars Program] and the Achievers Scholar Program. So basically itong [P842,098.63] na ito, may mga specific allocations na talaga,” Chen says. He also hopes that it would be felt by the student body, because a big amount of money is being allocated for these initiatives.