On Dec. 17, the University of Calgary publicly released travel and hospitality expense records of U of C Board of Governors and administration in an effort to increase transparency.
The records can be found online and are in accordance with the U of C’s new public disclosure of expenses policy, which is meant to improve accountability and “establish parameters for the disclosure of expense information” made by U of C leaders. The U of C is acting in conjunction with the government of Alberta in releasing expense records to the public.
Travel, business flights, meals and accommodation expenses will be posted periodically, beginning with expenses incurred from October 2012.
This move was put in place under a commitment by the university to increase transparency.
The public expense records are available in order to prevent spending discrepancies. One such discrepancy arose when BOG chair Doug Black’s expenses did not follow the U of C’s hospitality and travel expense policy and he misspent over $28,000. Black has since repaid the money in full.
“In addition to publicly disclosing these expenses, the university has implemented a more rigorous internal process for approving executive and board expenses, designated a compliance officer, implemented multiple levels of oversight and engaged the Internal Audit unit to bring even more rigor to the expense approval process,” according to a U of C press release.
According to Students’ Union president Hardave Birk, increasing transparency around spending is beneficial for all members of the U of C community.
“It’s a positive step by the university to be moving forward. It’s good to see that they’re in compliance with what the provincial government had asked,” said Birk. “They’re trying to make sure that it’s very clear how money is being spent.”
He said this step will allow the university to keep a closer watch on how executives spend money.
“I think it’s always good for the university to move towards more transparency, to show where they’re spending students’ money, where they’re spending tuition money,” said Birk. “The fact of the matter is that it’s better to have the information out there about where money is going in terms of expenses and travel than to release it later and have it look like a big scandal.”
First-year U of C business student Oliver Horner agrees that public disclosure of executive spending is positive for students.
“We need more transparency between the executives and the students,” said Horner. “So it’s a really good idea to broadcast and show students what they are spending and what we are getting for our money.”
According to the U of C, president Elizabeth Cannon’s expense records are in accordance with the U of C’s hospitality and travel expense policy and regulations.
“Expenses claimed by the president are appropriate to the president’s role and fully in accordance with all university policies in place at the time. Going forward, her expenses will be released as part of the [U of C’s] regular process of expense disclosure,” according to the press release.