The University Student Government’s (USG) operational fund for Academic Year (AY) 2020-2021 stood at P397,687 when it was approved in a Legislative Assembly session last March 30. The figure is 29 percent lower than what was handed out by the DLSU administration in the previous year, placing greater emphasis on how and where the amount will be spent.
So far, the Office of the Treasurer (OTREAS) has implemented multiple scholarship programs and the One Kit, One Student project, a fundraiser to provide school supplies for elementary students. Meanwhile, the rest of the USG has one term left to utilize their allotment that, until recently, had been out of reach for some units due to technical limitations resulting from DLSU’s ongoing digital transformation initiative.
Where the money goes
The USG currently has two types of funds: operational and depository. The operational fund is an annual allocation that comes from the University. The USG, accredited student organizations, and other student groups are each given a portion of this amount, which is then budgeted by their respective treasurers.
On the other hand, the depository fund is cash collected by the units themselves, whether through donations, fundraising activities, sponsorships, or solicitations, that is kept with the Accounting Office. It is not possible to move money between the funds.
However, one major difference between the two is that operational funds need to be consumed within the year as any amount left unused will be returned to the University; depository funds, meanwhile, can be accumulated for years.
“That is the main reason why we always tell the [USG] units to use up their operational funds first before they use their depository funds,” Executive Treasurer Noel Gatchalian says.
The operational fund, he explains, was split among the USG units based on their termly Goals, Objectives, Strategies, and Measures (GOSM), which contains planned initiatives and their projected costs.
In OTREAS’ latest budget allocation, fixed allocations were distributed to the USG’s large-scale activities, such as the University Vision-Mission Week, and its commissions and departments. Batch governments were allocated specific percentages of the overall budget, with larger batches and the frosh batches given bigger cuts.
College governments were given an averaged amount based on their total student population and an equal division of their remaining appropriation, while the Executive Board (EB) based their split on proposed projects.
To prevent overspending, OTREAS constantly monitors the projects of all units by reviewing their pre-activity documents and project proposal forms, which should contain a breakdown of expenses, the source of funding, and even projected income, if any. Gatchalian clarifies that their office addresses these concerns ahead by turning down projects they think may go over the budget.
Funding USG programs
OTREAS maintains several sources of funding for its financial aid initiatives, which includes the Achiever Scholar Program, the Lasallian Scholarship Program, the Student Allowance Program, and the Dean’s Lister Grant. Gatchalian reasons that since the operational fund is limited, depository funds needed to be created.
For years, the USG maintained two such accounts: the Centralized Student Allowance Fund or Achievers’ Scholarship Fund and the Student Government Allowance Fund.
“We also have the support of DLSU Parents of the University Students Organization and [DLSU] Science Foundation Incorporated,” Gatchalian adds, noting that the latter backs their Lasallian Scholarship Program.
The USG also plans to increase its depository funds by holding an internal fundraising activity handled by the Office of the Executive Secretary. Lanyards and t-shirts projected to cost P35,000 will be sold to members of the USG as memorabilia, the proceeds of which will go directly to scholarship programs.
Money out of reach
But despite all these plans, some USG offices were unable to actually use their money. Gatchalian reveals that this problem stemmed from the DLSU administration’s Banner Initiative to Transform, Unify, Integrate, and Navigate (BITUIN), a part of which is institutionalizing a new centralized software database for financial processing.
When student groups would need funds for their projects, they fill out forms, such as a Payment Requisition Slip, and send it to the Accounting Office for processing. These include details on the purpose of the transaction as well as the corresponding account where the cost would be incurred.
However, the migration from the old financial system to BITUIN required changes to the account numbers. “You need new BITUIN account numbers, but there are new account numbers that have to be placed in the PRS and all,” Gatchalian clarifies. “The BITUIN committee [hadn’t] yet prepared the new account numbers for some of the colleges.” This led to a temporary freeze in transactions for some USG units.
“We really thought that BITUIN will be fully functioning by April…We thought it was going to be fully functioning even by May,” he adds. It was only on June 9 that the other units were furnished a new account number, leaving them with only one term to consume their operational funds.
Before the announcement, OTREAS had taken preemptive measures for the affected college and batch units by having the officers reschedule their projects to another date. Gatchalian shares that the contingency plan would have taken place around the second week of June had the issue with BITUIN persisted.
Nevertheless, he stresses the urgency of resolving pending transactions within the USG, emphasizing that “collaboration is key” as he continues to work together with the Office of Student Leadership Involvement, Formation, and Empowerment on formulating contingency plans.