Three Associated Students executives and 11 senators held a private meeting late Monday night to discuss procurement, a system which dictates how students can buy goods and services at UC Santa Barbara.
In July 2016, UCSB Audit and Advisory Services reported that Associated Students (A.S.) did not have autonomy to procure its own funds after completing an audit of the organization.
The report recommended that A.S. make several updates to its procurement process and said A.S. needed to “improve practices to comply with University policy.”
The attendees at Monday’s meeting discussed the changes A.S. would make to its procurement practices, according to A.S. President Hieu Le, fourth-year political science major.
Students were planning to stage a sit-in at Cheadle Hall regarding the new procurement agreement after the upcoming A.S. Senate meeting on Nov. 8, but cancelled the demonstration after Monday night’s gathering, according to Nushi Yapabandara, fourth-year philosophy major.
Other members from Boards, Commissions and Units and A.S. entities also attended the meeting.
Le told the Nexus on Nov. 2 that the university and A.S. had reached an agreement in which A.S. would undergo Management Corrective Actions (MCA) suggested in the audit.
Le was not specific about which recommendations A.S. accepted. Le said A.S. was already complying with university policy and that the changes were made “in good faith.”
“There are changes that are going to happen — not large scale changes but there will be some changes,” Le said.
Le and Marisela Márquez, A.S. executive director, outlined the modifications in a memorandum of understanding (MOU), and presented the document to the A.S. Senate at a meeting on Nov. 1.
According to the MOU, members of the association underwent trainings “that encompass the needs” of A.S. The trainings included instruction on UCSB Procurement Gateway, which is the online system the university uses to buy and sell goods from vendors.
There was also a training for using the FlexCard, a Visa procurement card issued to university employees who can buy goods and services for their department, as well as training on using templates when making agreements for purchases.
Le said with the new changes, A.S. will now have a procurement specialist within the association and be able to more quickly expend funds.
The association completed the corrections and submitted them to the A.S. Finance and Business Committee and Senate for review and approval, according to the MOU.
A.S. wants the senate to approve the modifications before the quarterly UC Regents meeting from Nov. 14-16, where Regents will review unmet MCAs.
Le said the university will review the agreement each year to evaluate the association’s procurement practices.
Le also referred to a letter written by former Chancellor Robert Huttenback in 1984 that outlined Huttenback’s support for A.S procurement authority.
In the letter, Huttenback wrote that the association “may expend funds accumulate annually” for purposes and activities “compatible” with A.S. objectives.
Huttenback resigned from the university in 1986 shortly after the Nexus discovered he embezzled school funds in order to repair his private residence, but his letter has never been revoked. A.S. has operated with the authority granted in this letter since 1984.
The audit states that Huttenback’s letter only referred to the “expenditure of funds” which would be considered “financial authority,” not “procurement authority.” Procurement authority refers to the practice of sourcing vendors and contracting negotiations with them.
“We’ve always operated under the assumption that we had procurement authority and that has never been put into question — until now,” Le said, adding that the association has been operating for over 50 years.