Sunday 18 November 2018

UCD bails out students' union with €750,000 loan

Mark Hilliard

CASH-STRAPPED University College Dublin (UCD) has been forced to bail out its own student union, which racked up €1.4m in debt through years of financial mismanagement.

Sources indicated last night that a university loan of €750,000 was given the green light early last month.

The massive amount was given to the students' union as an "advance" on capitation dues for the next year and a half.

Capitation fees of around €35 a student come from the annual €2,000 registration fee. The €35 goes to fund the student's union for the year.

The union is now working to secure a bank loan in order to repay the university. But it will then be saddled with repayments on a sum expected to be in the region of €900,000.

However, once it repays the university it will once again be in a position to receive its capitation funding.

This week a detailed audit of the union's accounts were revealed at a meeting of students.

Undertaken by McNally Business Services, it revealed financial practices devoid of checks and balances since 2007.

Problems included misplaced paperwork and cheque stubs, unpaid tax bills and thousands of unexplained bank transactions, all of which contributed to the alarming build-up of unpaid debt. Included in that was a tax liability of nearly €400,000 to the Revenue Commissioners which has since been repaid.

Outgoing president Pat de Brun told the Irish Independent that the union had repaid Revenue after making a voluntary disclosure of liability, but was unaware whether it would face further sanctions.

Shock

"I think they take a particular view when it's a voluntary disclosure," he said.

Revenue declined to comment on its position last night.

"To be honest it was a huge shock when this started," said Mr de Brun.

"I had some misgivings when I started (in his role as president) and I wanted to investigate but I had no idea it was on that scale. It really snowballed.

"Due to just complete mismanagement and really poor practices and structures we have been left in this position. It's been a very difficult year."

However, this week's meeting was assured that stringent systems and controls have now been put in place at the union in order to ensure a financial meltdown does not reoccur.

Aided by its accountancy firm, the union has introduced a number of measures including a general manager as a co-signatory on expenditure, a system that had not previously existed.

It will also file annual accounts following moves to register as an official company this week.

Irish Independent

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