Student Unity National Union of Students (NUS) Office Bearers have allegedly seriously mismanaged the organisation’s finances through a contract created in 2021.
In information revealed to Honi, the Office Bearers involved started the Australian International Students’ Association (AISA) in 2021, an alternative international student organisation to the Council of International Students Australia (CISA), with 2021 NUS General Secretary Param Mahal being allocated $9,500 for the project.
Mahal allegedly passed the money on to ex-Unity Convenor and 2020 NUS General Secretary Samuel Roberts to be a ‘consultant’ on the project. Mahal allegedly entered into this contract unilaterally. Roberts was initially meant to receive 30% of the fee upfront, and the remaining 70% upon completion.
However, NUS sources raised concerns over the amount of work done by Roberts. Nonetheless, Mahal paid the full amount. Despite not being an Office Bearer at the time of payment early this year, Mahal continued to have access to the NUS’ accounts.
The current NUS General Secretary, Emily Sagolj, who is also a Student Unity member, discovered the alleged mismanagement in February.
The NUS is seeking legal advice on the matter, as well as advice on improving financial oversight.
The NUS, which is Australia’s peak student body, elects its Office Bearers annually at its National Conference. This issue follows longstanding issues with factionalism and lack of accountability within the union, which has only recently begun to publicly share detailed minutes and OB reports.
The General Secretary position has historically been controlled by senior members of Student Unity. This pattern has previously, and continues, to raise accountability concerns, as members are bound by factional allegiances. The current revelations coming to light relied on Sagolj’s willingness to raise misconduct by members of her own faction.
Additionally, the issue has implications for other portfolios. The NUS Education Department’s planned campaign on increasing SSAF allocations and running EdCon could be diminished by poor spending within the Union coming to light. Office Bearers reportedly expressed concern about the ways that the scandal might affect perceptions of the Union.
Current NUS President Georgie Beatty told Honi, “The NUS treats matters of transparency and financial accountability to our members with the utmost seriousness. We are a union of our members.”
“The NUS is pursuing legal advice, therefore cannot comment further on these allegations.”