Student Union loans $45,000 to volunteer program

Little opposition on council to use of presidential decree

Prince Ralph Osei’s last presidential decree in office was approved on the evening of Aug. 23 as the Concordia Student Union Council endorsed a $45,000 loan to the Concordia Volunteer Abroad Program.

Incapable of securing financial aid from Concordia or a loan from any bank, CVAP turned to the CSU on July 31 for support to finance the construction of a $125,000 residence for Concordia volunteers in the town of Gulu, Uganda.

Despite having never seen the financial records of CVAP, the CSU president decreed on Aug. 13 that they be given the loan. Only one member of council questioned the details of the decree or the financial standing of CVAP.

The other $80,000 CVAP received was from a private guarantor whom Osei could not identify.

“CVAP approached me and they tried to seek loans from the university and bank, but they both refused,” said Osei. “So I sat down with the executives and we looked at the CSU’s finances and we have money at the CSU that we could guarantee them with no interest.”

By making the loan interest free, the CSU will be forgoing over $1,000 in interest.

The loan, which must be paid in full by May 20, 2011, is backed up by the $220,000 in fees that CVAP gets directly from students each year—based on a fee of 0.35 cents per credit. Under the agreement signed with the CSU, the volunteer program would be levied a 10 per cent penalty if it failed to make the payment on time.

“I think that any one that sits in this chair should be able to make the right call,”
—Prince Ralph Osei,
CSU President

Made by decree, a power reserved for the president to be used sparingly between the monthly meetings of council, Osei felt that the loan was time-sensitive.

“The problem was that the project had to start this summer,” said Osei, who confirmed that ground was broken on the building on Aug. 16. “CVAP has people in Uganda on the ground working and we could not have a council meeting right there and then, so we took an executive decision.”

When asked what would happen if council did not ratify the decree, especially since ground had already been broken on the building, Osei said that he did not have a contingency plan.

“I wouldn’t say I’m persuasive per se, but the idea behind it and the fact that it doesn’t affect the budget that we passed for the year, should get councilors’ approval,” said Osei.

Former CSU President Amine Dabchy, who was in Uganda to examine the building site between the time the loan was decreed and approved, told council that they were not setting a precedent: a loan of $10,000 had been given to the Concordia Co-op Bookstore in 2005.

With the precedent, Osei said that he was ready to look at other groups who would need similar loans.

“If they need money we would look at it, we would talk,” said Osei. “I think that any one that sits in this chair should be able to make the right call.”

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 02, published August 24, 2010.