Sunday, May 20, 2018
Last updated: 3 years ago

The AMS isn’t being accountable when it counts

We'd happily report the details of the AMS Performance Accountability Incentives (PAI) bonuses if the information was public.

We’d happily report the details of the AMS Performance Accountability Incentives (PAI) bonuses if the information was public.

Back in March, I wrote an editorial about the lack of accountability when it comes to AMS executive bonuses. For those of you who don’t remember, the AMS has a pot of up to $25,000 to give out to five executives. In order to get the extra money, executives have to set and meet certain goals. If a committee decides they reached those goals well enough, they can get up to $5,000 each. But the AMS didn’t think it was necessary to let students know how much bonus money executives got or why.

We’ve been asking the AMS for the bonus numbers for months. Back in March, they said we wouldn’t necessarily get a specific breakdown of how much each executive got, but they would send out the total amounts in a budget document. They finally released that document this week, minus one key detail — their bonus numbers.

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The AMS has cited a number of reasons over the past few months for keeping their bonuses secret: the execs are students who might not want everyone to know how much money they make; the process is accountable to AMS Council itself, so the average student doesn’t need to know the details; or that policy prevents them from releasing the numbers due to privacy concerns.

But none of those reasons seem to hold water. The executives ran for public office. Their salaries are public, and their bonuses should be too.

The bonus numbers aren’t the only issue we have with the AMS when it comes to accountability. Council has been going into closed session more and more frequently. They kick reporters out of the room, often without telling us why. All this secrecy doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the AMS.

It’s been a growing trend for organizations to be less and less open to the media, and the AMS’s stance on their bonuses is another step in the wrong direction. Organizations are increasingly adding public affairs staff, asking for quote approval or demanding that reporters send interview questions ahead of time. Thankfully, the AMS hasn’t gone that far yet. But it’s a slippery slope. Which is why we’re calling the AMS out on their bonuses — because no one else is.

At the end of the day, we as students fund the AMS. A total of $25,000 is only a small chunk of their budget. But the principle still stands — refusing to let students know how much money we pay executives is a problem.

  • James M

    I looked at the budget they published and there a few reasons I believe its not a huge deal, and kinda agree with the policy.

    1) The 25k in bonuses represents 0.16% of the AMS total expenses. If you want to really go after accountability there would be two other areas I would look at. First would be contracts, I would have someone audit the contracts the AMS awards and ton ensure they are at market rate. Second would be publishing a breakdown of some of the larger line items on their budget. For example 551k was allocated to Student Spaces, 118k was allocated to Lobbying, 284k was allocated to a “discretionary “Services” fund. How are these being spent within those allocations? I didn’t see that in the budget. I assume they are reasonable and needed. However its hard to tell with the breakdown.

    2) Even at if someone got the full bonus the total compensation for a executive is $37.5k a year. This still seems reasonable. If some disagree with this, maybe the discussion should be around total compensation. However, given the size of the membership, and responsibility of the roles I believe its in line.

    3) Its a bit of privacy for student executives and it’s really not that much. We still know they made somewhere between 32.5k and 37.5k. Maybe a more reasonable request may be for them to release the aggregate amount spent of the 25k bonus allocation?

    just my 2 cents.

    • Ekat

      The issue isn’t so much the money, but the fact that the bonus’ are allocated based on goals set by the executives at the beginning for their terms. It’s a metric of what promises people are making (and which ones they aren’t keeping).

      Making the info public would not only give an idea of how the executives are doing, but help future students make more realistic goals.

      • James M

        I can agree goals should be made public, and that executives will make promises when running for office. They should be held accountable. Maybe the Ubyssey should focus more on the promises made during campaigning and the progress and results throughout the year. Or even better interview all of the executives now and get their goals for the term and review how they did in April ? That would probably be more meaningful then knowing X executive only got 3k of 5k, because he/she missed 3 meetings, or didn’t do some other internal metric.

        I’m just grumpy my newsfeed is hit with article after article about bonues and “refusing to let students know how much money we pay executives”. We know its between 32.5k and 37.5k. Personally I’m happy with that range. Its not 32.5k and random unknown number.

        Instead maybe ask what the 284k for discretionary services is? Or do a article on what they want to accomplish from now to september?

  • Tom

    Does anyone know what the AMS staff salaries break down is or where that information is available?