Voluntary membership won’t stop fraud

Student association membership should be voluntary, and ACT’s Heather Roy is to be applauded for championing this cause.

Another thing: these associations do seem to be curiously prone to being ripped off.

Roy refers to a ‘Press’ newspaper report of a woman being jailed for 22 months after defrauding the Christchurch Polytechnic Students’ Association (CPSA) of $175,000, of which $125,000 was unrecoverable.

The Press cited other incidents:

• December 1999 – Brendan McQuillan, president of Nelson Polytechnic Student Association, admitted stealing $8,004.

• November 2003 – Florence Bailey, office manager of Massey Students Association, jailed for two years and three months after stealing $203,000.

• November 2005 – Victoria University Maori Student Association treasurer Wi Nepia jailed for stealing $161,000.

• 2005 – Otago University’s Te Roopu Maori, the Maori students’ association collapsed amid allegations of financial impropriety. Estimated fraud $21,000.

• April 2007 – Clelia Opie, officer of Victoria University Students’ Association, spends $6,000 on phone calls.’

But Roy draws a very long bow when she links the incidence of fraud with compulsory membership.

Because students are forced to pay association fees, she contends, these organisations have pools of cash and little accountability when it comes to managing those funds. This makes it easy for individuals to use the money for their own means.

“Student associations are one of only a few organisations in New Zealand that can compel membership. This compulsion results in a guaranteed stream of income, with a seeming lack of accountability to properly manage the pool of money it creates.

“Misuse of funds in a voluntary organisation would result in a loss of confidence by members in the executive. But in student organisations, despite frequent fraud and theft, students are still forced to pay union fees whether they want to or not. Student associations are also often plagued by accusations of advocating only the views of their executives rather than those of their wider memberships.”

Alf perhaps needs to consult his optician, because he can’t see how voluntary membership will reduce the incidence of fraud.

Under a voluntary regime, members may well express their lack of confidence in an organisation where money has been misused, but in cases where this “misuse” amounts to fraud, it will be too late. The money will have gone.

And let’s face it: there is no absence of fraud in outfits – law firms, for example – where there is no compulsion about giving them your money.

One Response to Voluntary membership won’t stop fraud

  1. […] that can’t be guaranteed is voluntary would result in less or no fraud (read another blog here).  And if was voluntary and you opted out, then needed it – would you regret it? I know I […]

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