Policy changes proposed for GAPSA

by Tom Lopez

To members of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Taking steps to eliminate problems before they arise, GAPSA members instituted two policy changes in the areas of fund disbursement and hiring and supervising. The changes, which go into effect this week, are the result of recommendations in a recent University audit report that pointed out several potential problem areas in the current policy.
GAPSA President Bruce Bromberek said the fund disbursement policy was not the result of any specific problem, but it was adopted as a precautionary step.
“A situation where the president has exceeded the authority of the assembly has not happened in our past, but the proposal was essentially a good preventative measure to prevent any possible abuses in the future,” he said.
One of the new policies addresses the issue of employing relatives and spouses of assembly members, stating that “under no circumstances shall an assembly member or GAPSA employee have direct supervisory power over a related employee.”
The policy also requires a two-thirds majority to hire a spouse or relative of GAPSA members.
Chris Rauschl, GAPSA’s vice-president for finance and author of the changes, said the auditors recommended the provisions because of two hirings of GAPSA members’ relatives in the past. Last year the assembly hired a lawyer whose son was an officer, and in 1995 the acting administrative coordinator hired her husband to do some temporary computer work. Rauschl said the policy changes did not reflect a dissatisfaction with the hirings, but instead intended to put a formal policy on the books.
“The policies are more of a statement that we should recognize the problems that the hiring of these individuals might cause, and handle them in an appropriate way,” Rauschl said. “Even the appearance of impropriety is something we want to avoid.”
The other policy change establishes safeguards against the possibility of financial abuse within the organization.
The policy requires the signatures of both the president and vice-president on GAPSA checks. It also takes steps against personal use of organizational funds, stating that “under no circumstances shall a payment be made to an individual whose signature appears on the check.”
Also, anyone who signs a check cannot authorize payment to a spouse or family member, according to the policy.
In drafting the fund disbursement proposal, Rauschl said he looked at the Minnesota Student Association’s policy and used it as a model for part of his policy.
He said the changes did not represent a departure from current practices. “It’s not really changing policy per se, it’s really codifying our historical practices as much as possible,” he said, adding that he had been “fully confident that the proposal would go through without controversy.”
The audit report that instigated the changes resulted from the organization’s financial difficulties two years ago when the Internal Revenue Service levied fees and penalties for not paying taxes.
The group had to pay the IRS $48,000 in back taxes and fees in 1996. The penalties were a result of mismanagement of funds by a previous administration.
Afterward, the assembly requested an internal audit from the University. “We wanted to be sure there wasn’t something hiding in the books, waiting to be discovered,” Bromberek said.