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Preparations Begin for RCA to Audit Activities' Accounts

By Dan McGuire
News Editor

The Office of Residence and Campus Activities is preparing a system to audit student groups who hold bank accounts outside of MIT.

All student groups with outside accounts recognized by RCA are responsible for turning in paperwork documenting their expenses each quarter, according to the revised accounts policy issued last October. The original policy had prohibited student groups from keeping external bank accounts.

Under the revised policy, groups must also be prepared for random audits of their accounts by RCA.

The audits will "usually consist of a request for a copy of monthly bank statements, followed by a request to view the supporting documents from several of the transactions," the policy states. A full audit requiring documents on all transactions "will occur infrequently [and] will often be based on other indications of poor fiscal management," according to the policy.

"Basically it's record keeping," said Associate Dean for RCA Katherine G. O'Dair. "We're not really doing the audits to make sure [groups] are not going into debt."

"Banks will treat groups much like they treat people. If a group writes a check for an amount that they don't have, the check will bounce, and they will get charged a processing fee," said President of the Association of Student Activities Douglas K. Wyatt G.

"I don't think that outside accounts are for groups that are financially precarious enough that that they might bounce checks," he said.

The main idea behind the audits, O'Dair said, was to "try to make sure that [groups] are not spending money on things that are illegal." Many of the accounts in outside banks use MIT's tax-exempt identification number, and MIT is legally responsible for abuses occurring with such funds.

"Student groups are already using the tax number the consequences for what they do are still the same," she said.

"Should a group get into trouble, it's better to have the backing of MIT," O'Dair said. "I see the role of my office as rectifying" problems that arise, she added.

Groups welcome flexibility

As RCA finalizes its audit policy, student groups are preparing to issue their first reports to RCA regarding the status of their bank accounts. Reports are due on Feb. 28. Earlier concerns that the move to outside accounts would dramatically increase the necessary paperwork seem to have proven unfounded.

"I personally think it won't be too much of a burden for groups," Wyatt said.

"Groups, for their own good, should be keeping records about income and expenditures," he said. "If a group doesn't keep records of its banking activity, it probably shouldn't have an outside account."

"It's nothing hard," said Counterpoint President Mark L. Huang '99, whose group was among the first to request an account. "It's like balancing your personal checking account."

The amount of paperwork that groups need to turn into RCA is more than was previously required. Before, "the only paperwork that we had to turn into the office was vouchers asking for checks," said Carolina F. Avendano '97, the treasurer of the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers.

Much of this paperwork, though, was already on hand, Avendano said. "We already have a pretty good system. We have computer software [for keeping track of finances]," she said. "We keep copies of all receipts."

The minor paperwork increase is far offset by the ability to issue reimbursements more quickly, Avendano said.