Proposal re Community Finances

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Sudane Erato
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Proposal re Community Finances

Post by Sudane Erato »

Sleazy Writer has kindly asked me to focus my objections to the recently passed Financial Reporting Act, and I presume by extension propose how things might be done better. While this is an invitation of the CSDF faction, holding their regular meeting tonight, I feel that it might be best if my concerns and proposals were directedto everyone, so I'll offer my comments here. Thank you Sleazy for the invitation!

The CDS financial system is among the most primitive of our institutions, relaying completely on one "friendly" citizen who takes it upon herself to manage what is now becoming, in SL terms, a substantial amount of money. This must change, *not* for the sake of that friendly citizen (who has devised ways of providing management in the simplest and most time efficient way possible), but because the citizens deserve more responsible oversight over their money.

The "change" must involve a broadening (meaning... more people) of the responsibility of money management, and an appropriate system in which those who do take on the responsibility convey to the elected representatives the focussed issues regarding the money of the community in a way that will lead to informed decisions.

An easy example. Each term of the RA (except the current one) I have prepared a simple budget, so that people can see where it is proposed their money be spent, and so that the representatives can approve that. The numbers are created out of my own head, having looked at them each month, and then presented to a group of representatives who have basically never looked at them (not to cast blame... the representatives are responsible for many things besides money). The context of the discussion to approve such a budget makes little sense, since there is little common ground between the money manager and the representatives.

What *should* happen (IMHO) is that a small group of appointed individuals become very familiar with the day in and day out issues of our money (they are *not* very complicated!!). These individuals, together with the treasurer, all in full possession of every bit of information, discuss the details and issues regarding finance in our community. From these discussions come two things:

1) Policies for the management of the money which are procedural... things which are best decided by these "administrators" who are in touch with every detail. Things like the best way to collect taxes, and the best ways to report on income and expenditures.

2) Policies which represent community issues, which this financial group can formulate in an educational way, present to the community, and seek decisions from the representatives. The semi-annual budget is a good example of this. Related issues, such as the recently approved "definition of citizenship by way of monthly land fee", and, "modification of the process for selling land" might be initiatives which originate in the financial group (although they might just as easily originate elsewhere.).

Of course this group must be accountable to the representatives, just as the treasurer is now. But the group will have the added authority of intimate familiarity with the often "non-black-and-white" issues which real community money management encounters.

And, from my personal point of view, it will fundamentally alter my own role, from one which was patched together at the outset of Neualtenburg, but which is now absurd, to one in which I (or whoever is Treasurer) plays an intelligent role in a group which shares this responsibility.

The problem with the Financial Reporting Act is that it solves none of these problems. It in no way relieves the single individual of all responsibility for money management decisions, and it begins the inexorable process of sharing more and more detail with community members who by their very definition cannot and will not assume responsibility from a money point of view. The transactions requested by the Law, so far, are very simple. Indeed, so simple that I strongly doubt that whoever provided the impetus behind this Law received what they were hoping for. But, as our affairs get more complicated in coming months and years, the concern of the representatives will express itself in countless questions about these details to the Treasurer. Questions which cannot easily be answered in a public forum to people who are unacquainted with the context of each transaction. Fundamentally, passage of the law makes the statement that we, the elected representatives, want all the details of our community's financial transactions, but we don't want to take any responsibility for managing that process. "We" simply wish to arrive at a superficial impression of a given transaction and direct that action be taken to alter that transaction.

That's unacceptable and irresponsible.

I strongly urge the CSDF to support the repeal of the "Financial Reporting Law" and draft instead a "Responsible Money Management for the CDS Community Act", establishing an appointed group of citizens willing to take on the responsibility of looking at all the issues and problems of our money and making both good decisions on its management and also informed proposals and advisements to the CDS RA. I am of course willing to work closely with you in the drafting of this act, and I apologize that I have not been able to draft it myself. I have, though, over the years, repeatedly raised the issue of the need for such a system (and have the distincttion of having my first proposal shot down by Ulrika Zugzwang who adamantly felt that simply publicizing every last transaction in our books was sufficient community accountability).

Sudane..........................

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Re: Proposal re Community Finances

Post by Jon Seattle »

I would gladly see the current law replaced by a more comprehensive one, but no one has put together a proposal. I think our time would be much better spent if the executive was working with the members of the RA to design a better system. We of the CSDF have been very open to doing this, but no request for participation has yet materialized.

At the same time, no new proposal is acceptable if it means that CDS expenditures and donations are kept secret. All that the new law requires is that this information, both contributions and expenditures, be available to all citizens. If anyone tells you anything else they are misinforming you. We cannot afford to rush back to the state where this information is kept from citizens in hopes that a better proposal will come along some day.

I am very concerned that some day we may wake up to find that CDS has become dependent on substantial donations that are not made public. The new law does not forbid any such donations, but it does insist that they be made in the open so that we do not find ourselves unknowingly in a situation (as I am told we have been just prior to the great content deletion in NFS) where that donor suddenly decides to use those contributions as leverage over CDS decision making.

The bill does not actually ask the treasurer to do anything, rather it asks the executive branch to make this information public. If the chancellor needs more resources to keep a balance sheet, he should ask the RA to provide resources for this purpose. I would be glad to see the bill replaced by something better, but lets figure out what that better thing is first.

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Patroklus Murakami
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Re: Proposal re Community Finances

Post by Patroklus Murakami »

Sudane

As I understand it, the Treasurer is appointed by the Chancellor and the Chancellor has the authority "to appoint and pay deputies or other staff to hold office in the Office of the Chancellor of CDS to facilitate the discharge of any function of the Office of the Chancellor conferred by this Act or any other Act of the Representative Assembly". Unless I'm missing something, you could just ask Dnate to appoint people to assist you in the way you describe.

I agree that we should develop further our system of financial control, including the budget. There doesn't seem to be (or at least, I've been unable to find) any timetable for budgetary development and approval in our Constitution or Code of Laws. I agree that we need this, perhaps we could start the discussion on this at tomorrow's RA meeting? Here are a couple of issues to consider:

  • Should the budget be annual or termly?
    Should there be a 'pre-budget' discussion in the RA to set priorities before the Treasurer develops the budget?

I'm sure we'll come up with some other issues to discuss too.

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Bromo Ivory
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Re: Proposal re Community Finances

Post by Bromo Ivory »

Thank you Sudane. As the RA is a bit more than the CSDF, I very much appreciate the approach.

Although this is a decent medium - would it be good to come to an RA meeting in order to delineate for those who prefer access in SL primarily? Just a suggestion.

==
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Sleazy_Writer
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Re: Proposal re Community Finances

Post by Sleazy_Writer »

Hi Sudane,

I don't think you're making a convincing case against the Financial Reporting Act (but I do want to evaluate it)

but you're right about more financial responsibility.

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Re: Proposal re Community Finances

Post by michelmanen »

I totally agree with Sudane. In fact, CARE has long proposed the collaborative drafting of an Act along the lines proposed by Sudane. Instead, an entirely moronic act was drafted by the CSDF and passed by the RA. The fact that Sleazy isn't persuaded by Sudane's argument only reflects on Sleazy's intellectual abilities, and not on Sudane's arguments.

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Patroklus Murakami
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Re: Proposal re Community Finances

Post by Patroklus Murakami »

michelmanen wrote:

I totally agree with Sudane. In fact, CARE has long proposed the collaborative drafting of an Act along the lines proposed by Sudane. Instead, an entirely moronic act was drafted by the CSDF and passed by the RA. The fact that Sleazy isn't persuaded by Sudane's argument only reflects on Sleazy's intellectual abilities, and not on Sudane's arguments.

Welcome back Michel. Nice to see you're still as pointlessly aggressive and rude as before.

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