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July 13, 2009 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Calls for voluntary association membership after some South Islander went a-stealin’

The ACT Party have reiterated their call for voluntary student association membership after a former Christchurch Polytechnic Students’ Association (CPSA) office manager was jailed for defrauding the association.

Helen Lenihan was jailed for 22 months in late June for stealing $175,000 of CPSA funds over a period of five years, $125,000 of which cannot be recovered.

News of the fraud has reignited calls for voluntary membership of student associations. ACT Deputy Leader Heather Roy noted that associations were one of only a few organisations that could compel membership.

“This compulsion results in a guaranteed stream of income, with a seeming lack of accountability to properly manage the pool of money it creates,” Roy said.

Other organisations were as decisive in their response. President of the Young Nats Alex Mitchell called the fraud “a wake-up call” for all students.

“Student associations are essentially able to get away with making poor decisions and having poor processes in place,” Mitchell said.

“This latest example of fraud is a wake-up call for students to keep an eye on their student associations and vote out executives that are not keeping their ship in order.”

Lenihan’s conviction is the sixth in the past 10 years for defrauding a student association.

Recent Cases of Fraud in New Zealand Student Associations
1999: Brenda McQuillan, president of Nelson Polytechnic Student Association, admitted stealing $8004.
2003: Florence Bailey, office manager of Massey Students Association, jailed for two years and three months after stealing $203,000.
2005: Victoria University Maori Student Association treasurer Wi Nepia jailed for stealing $161,000.
2005: Otago University’s Te Roopu Maori, the Maori students’ association, collapsed amid allegations of financial improprieties. Estimated fraud $21,000.
2007: Clelia Opie, officer of Victoria University Students’ Association, spends $6000 on phone calls.
2009: Helen Lenihan, former officer manager of the Christchurch Polytechnic Students’ Association, jailed for 22 months for fraud of $175,000.

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