An internal complaints committee has ruled Lewis Iwu to be in breach of OUSU’s standing orders.
The Complaints Board has judged, “The OUSU President to be….in continuous breach of standing orders” and advised that, “a motion of censure should be strongly considered by council.” The Board is an internal committee dealing with members dissatisfied with their treatment by OUSU.
The complaint made was in regards to “the lack of transparency in the running and management of OSSL and their dealing with OUSU.” Richard Hardiman, OUSU’s Strategic and Financial manager, has refused to divulge OSSL’s financial accounts and reports on request.
The Student Union’s Standing Orders, however, state that, “The Chair must report to the first council of each term the activities taken by OSSL during the previous term, as well as presenting Internal Financial Accounts for that term.”
The complaint was submitted by Ben Britton, MCR President of St Catherine’s. College. He said he was “concerned about the lack of transparency in both sets of accounts”, pointing out that accounts are “seeming transparent in OUSU, but smoke and mirrors in OSSL.”
This was the second complaint this year with regards to the financial transparency of OSSL.
However, OUSU’s 7th week council has not upheld the complaint.
Lewis Iwu, OUSU’s president, spoke in opposition to the ruling. He said, “Because [OSSL] is a company it is therefore governed by company law. We cannot make any actions which we feel will effect the company or its employees negatively….OSSL ruled that it would undermine the company, if we were to provide termly reports to council.”
He added, “This is why this information has not been released by previous business managers as it is against the law.”
Another member of the council added that this ruling “would hurt OSSL…it could reveal sensitive management information about other companies relating to when the deals are done.”
However, some accused Iwu of basing his defence on “murky interpretation of company law”.
Company law states that directors should act in the interest of the shareholders, and as shareholders, the Executive Body of OUSU could have full right to ask for the presentation of termly accounts of OSSL.
Thus, the release of OSSL’s accounts would not be against the law.
Ben Britton commented, “what appeared to occur was that the law was possibly misinterpreted for the purpose of failing the Complaints Committee ratification, and it seemed that OUSU Officers presented an ill considered case to Council, in breach of their duties to uphold the rights of all Students of this University.”
Another member, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “To give the complaints committee no notice that there were legal issues and then throw legal stumbling blocks in council reeks of an attempt to pervert the course of democratic discourse.”
He added, “As a student, I find it outrageous that these attempts by Lewis to block full transparency in all financial affairs are allowed to continue.”
Iwu did not comment as to whether his defense was viable. He replied, “Company Law clearly states that the directors need to act within what they believe to be the best interests of the company. The OSSL directors agreed that releasing management accounts would hurt OSSL’s relationships with clients, many of who require confidentiality, and would also hurt our reputation. I sought advice from the University which also concurred with that view.”