Published on July 4th, 2012 | by Andrea Gonzi4
Students’ House: Meeting Place to Shopping Mall – NAO Report
In accordance to a call for investigation by Labour MP Owen Bonnici, the National Auditing Office has released a report regarding the concession of students’ house.
Controversial claims regarding a conflict of interest in the leasing of a Students’ House outlet featured during this year’s heated KSU AGM, and later on during the election campaign via comments forwarded to InsiterOnline.
The report made reference to such claims, stating that the previous tenant of the university outlet brought the conflict of interest to the attention of the Prime Minister.
In clarification, it was said that the controversy was not the objective of the enquiry, the auditor general suggested that such observations should be held as indicators of how the system should be managed. The report further stated that the building has experienced a transformation from a “‘…designated meeting place for students’ associations to a ‘shopping mall.’”
Describing the relationship between KSU and Students’ House as ‘Unique’, the report outlined observations relating to irregularities within an agreement between the students’ council and the unviersity council in 1994.
‘KSU legally never obtained any title over the space in question.’, the report claims, ‘ KSU was never in a position to lease parts of the conceded space to third parties’. The report goes on to emphasize the space within Students’ House was initially intended for students’ associations.
Moreover, the document cites a number of descrepencies relating to the leasing of parts of the building and the University’s disregard towards the monioring and control over the administration of Students’ House.
Investigating the notion of KSU’s ‘autonomy’ vis-a-vis its relationship with the UoM, the report speaks of a 43,964 euro revenue generated by KSU through leasing to third parties – alleging that revenue is acquired through resources administered by the University, hence affecting the student council’s autonomy.
‘Defining KSU as being financially autonomous of UoM is, however, incorrect in view of the fact that the income referred to by KSU (a substantial chunk of KSU’s annual income) is in fact generated via rental of UoM’s resources. ‘ the report states.
The report also separately highlights a 160,938 euro revenue generated directly or indirectly through UoM’s resources.
It is also noted that article 72 of the Education Act implies that the UoM must monitor KSU’s administration both from a financial and general performance standpoint.
Among concerns raised by the Auditor General, is the fact that there is no record of KSU seeking permission from the University to lease sections of Students’ House or generate income through public land; the fact that the KSU financial reports are not monitored by the University; and that the Council’s statute does not reference ‘administrative activities’.
Action following the investigation’s outcomes is yet to materialize.