UMSU council approved a motion giving the finance committee the responsibility of rewarding performance-based incentives to the union’s executives at its regular meeting Nov. 23.
Previously, the reward of performance incentives was a function of the anonymous executive oversight committee’s quarterly reviews of the operations and performance of executive members of council. A function which UMSU president Tanjit Nagra said was not adequately budgeted for.
“Thinking about how much they’re actually allowed to give totals up to $15,000, looking at our budget, we do not have room for that,” Nagra said.
“Based on how auditing structures and things like that work, I don’t think it’s necessarily appropriate to have a group of anonymous people that can give out funding,” she added.
“I did have a discussion with finance, they also felt similarly but the biggest thing is that it wasn’t fiscally responsible for us to know we are going to go over budget with this.”
VP finance and operations Jehan Moorthy relayed to council his concern with the executive oversight committee after initially noting it in his bi-weekly executive report to council.
“I didn’t believe that the executive oversight committee were in their right to be distributing funds of that nature to the executive,” he said. “I believe that power should be resided within the finance committee.”
The executive oversight committee
The purpose of the committee, which is comprised of three UMSU councillors chosen at random and three students at large, is to ensure that executive members are meeting time and workload commitments, investigating complaints from union members, carrying out disciplinary proceedings, and awarding performance incentives based on its performance reviews of each executive.
UMSU’s Governance and Operation Manual specifies that the executive oversight committee is to submit written term reports to council within seven days of the end of each performance assessment term.
Assessments of executive members are divided into three terms – May to August, August to November, November to February – before a cumulative year-end assessment that concludes on the April 30.
These assessments lay out the number of received complaints and citations registered against each executive, an outline of the general performance of the executives, specific recommendations for each executive, and the percentage of performance incentives awarded to each executive backed by the committee’s reasoning for each.
The oversight committee can give up to $500 each at the end of each term, and up to $1,500 each after year-end assessments are completed. The committee then discloses all incentive award amounts to the council chair.
Nagra said that although the executive oversight committee was not consulted when drafting this motion, the responsibility of UMSU to ensure a fiscally responsible budget necessitated moving this motion as quickly as possible.
Nagra suggested that the rewarding of performance incentives becoming the responsibility of the finance committee only makes sense since the committee itself produces the annual budget.
“At the end of the day, the finance committee is the one looking over the budget, looking at the statements every month, and for us to be able to notify them that this could potentially go over budget by $15,000. It was a decision made as a collective that it would make sense for us to change this,” she said.
To address concerns that the reporting duties of the executive oversight committee could be undermined with this motion, Nagra said that only the “financial pieces” of the committee will be eliminated.
The new process for regarding performance incentives will see the current three-term structure curtailed to allow only their distribution following the end-of-year assessment on the April 30.
Society of Earth Sciences and Environmental Students representative Matthew Scammell said he was concerned with the sudden emergence of the motion, given that there was no mention of insufficient reserves to cover the full $15,000 in finance committee’s quarterly budget reports to council.
“Just the whole way it was presented, it was kind of a surprise to everybody. It was just a random motion,” Scammell said. “I would have been curious to count up the votes, it wasn’t very unanimous at all.”
“It just goes to show that everybody was really confused and wasn’t sure exactly how to vote, what they were even voting on,” he added. “We had no idea this was coming, we had no idea that they hadn’t budgeted for it, and we had no idea that they were going to be [making changes] to the finance committee.”