Proposers: Sean McKeown
Proposer Contact Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date of Proposal: 3/31/12 General Assembly
This proposal is intended as a proposal to improve OWS accounting and accountability methods
by drafting proper protocols for the movement as a whole to follow as we move revitalized into the
Part II: Accounting Standards Reform
Before even a single dollar of additional donations can be spent by Occupy Wall Street in good faith,
is an absolute necessity to achieve financial transparency moving forward. Both for our confidence in
each other as a Movement, and to enable us to say to the public at large that we are acting with radical
transparency to the best of our ability, any funds or materials we receive must being properly managed
and used to sufficiently high standards. For this purpose, this proposal is asking that we consent as a
body to the following:
Where possible and convenient, we will seek in-kind donations for supplies rather than
monetary donations, be they targeted needs (like bicycles for growing the Bike Coalition) or
general needs (like garbage bags for storing bags at an occupation site during wet weather).
Money is not needed for many of the needs of the Occupation, and should not be considered
the logistical answer to every problem.
Where money is being used, Occupy Wall Street will strive to follow Generally Accepted
Accounting Principles as well as radical transparency of accounting and book-keeping
records. These are already the principles by which members of our Accounting working
group must abide if they are to act properly within the law to the necessary high standard,
and we must as a whole stand in solidarity with the Accounting working group rather than
potentially expose them to state violence with the threat of arrest for their work on our behalf.
In asking Accounting to maintain these high standards, we must note that they can only do so
if we ourselves maintain these high standards. This requires receipts and a trail of information
for all financial disbursements, and by consenting to these principles as far as our use of
money is concerned we will be agreeing that no reimbursements will be made immediately
without a valid and well-documented receipt for any goods or services.
As these situations will still arise, and there is some flexibility within accounting protocols
for disbursement of funds without proper chains of information or receipts, the following
protocol shall be enabled for the disbursement of funds without meeting Generally Accepted
For any disbursal of funds without a receipt, after a one-week delay, if such a receipt
cannot be found or replaced for presenting to the Accounting working group, it can be
requested of the General Assembly or Spokes Council as a proposal to those bodies by
the individual seeking these funds in this way.
The Spokes Council is enabled by its design to hear such proposals of a strictly logistical
nature for intra-occupation budget items, while the General Assembly will remain the proper
body for all expenditures (logistical or otherwise) involving more than one General Assembly
working together or the NYCGA interacting with the outside world.
In keeping with the principle of radical transparency, we as a General Assembly will
authorize the Accounting working group to upload digital scans of bank statements and any
other such information, with account numbers redacted, as a general practice. Currently, the
only barrier to this radical transparency is the lack of GA direction in this capacity, and other
Occupations have used these standards of radical transparency to good effect. In addition to
making a weekly report to Spokes Council and General Assembly, as they have been, we
would be authorizing and requiring the Accounting Working Group to upload on a weekly
basis scans of this information for public scrutiny inside and outside of OWS. This consent to
publish financial information will be granted and back-dated, as far back as any records we
possess go, but not required by any particular timetable.
In addition to these weekly accounts summaries, in keeping with the principles of radical
transparency, we as a General Assembly will authorize our book-keepers, the Alliance
for Global Justice who are our fiscal sponsors for 501c3 purposes, to make reports of all
donations (including any cash received) public on a monthly-report basis. These reports
should likewise redact donor information and account numbers, but otherwise faithfully note
all donations into WePay, percentages taken as overhead by WePay or the Alliance for Global
Justice as our fiscal sponsors or any other outflows prior to budgetary tracking, and confirm
the transfer of funds to OWS accounts plus confirm that these accounts match those currently
tracked by the Accounting WG after any holding periods. The recipient of each disbursement
shall be provided in these monthly summaries going forward. For the purposes of masking
individual actions, monikers and/or Working Groups (where applicable) will be accepted (as
they presently are) for any who do not wish to publish their real name, but as with current
Accounting protocols and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, one’s real name and
similar information must be privately tracked internally (as it already is).
Additionally, the $100 per-day “petty cash” system, in place since the early weeks of the Occupation,
came into existence without direct GA consensus. The history of this system’s implementation came
about quite simply, as it was determined very early on (at a GA for which there do not appear to
be surviving records) that it was reasonable to require a $100 threshold for requiring the consent
of the body as a whole before making a financial expenditure on behalf of the Movement. By
logical inference, then, it became OWS practices not to require GA consent via a proposal for any
expenditure of up to $100. Likewise, to answer the questions of ‘by whom?’ and ‘how often?’ when
the Occupation was considerably smaller than it is today, the reasonable answers to these questions
were determined to be ‘by Working Groups’ and ‘on any given day,’ thus creating without an actual
proposal the system of petty cash as we have known it.
As part of its budgeting process discussions, the Spokes Council ratified with full consensus
the proposal to exclude petty cash expenditures without consensus and oversight as part of
our budgeting practices. As this proposal is seeking to conclude the spending freeze and put
into place best practices for the movement to follow going forward, the General Assembly
is being asked to consent that this system which was never brought into place via group
consensus shall not be used. In its place, if Working Groups, projects, or other proposal
items require flexible budgeting options as part of any budgets they seek approval for, they
can request such as part of their budgeting and such would be subjected to all appropriate
oversight within the guidelines of such budgeting structures.
With these requirements for transparency and accountability met, we can in good conscience lift the
spending freeze. Instead of simply concluding the spending freeze, however, by the passage of this
budget and its associated protocols, we would seek to modify the conclusion of the spending freeze.
For any given month, failure to complete a monthly report of our book-keeping and accounting
statements on the NYCGA.net website at accounting.nycga.net by the seventh day after the agreed-
upon deadline will result in an automatic and complete spending freeze. Presentation of such a
transparency report, for accountability purposes, either lifts or prevents such a freeze; unlike the
spending freeze proposed 1/14/12, this budgetary freeze shall have no exceptions based on category of
expenditure or the repeating nature of any budget.