AMS Council to potentially remove Oversight Committee

The AMS Council has accepted a recommendation from this year’s Governance Review to eliminate the Oversight Committee. This committee is in charge of reviewing the major activities of the AMS executive and Ombudsperson and maintaining accountability for the goals that they set each year.

The current oversight chair, Alan Ehrenholz, said that this change was made to enhance “connection between the executive and Council and [to] make Council as a whole more efficient.”

The Oversight Committee was created in 2007 to oversee the performance of the AMS executives. The six-person body assists with the goal-setting process of the executives and at the end of the year determines how much of the $5,000 Performance Accountability Incentive (PAI) bonus program each executive receives. 

The role of the oversight committee will have to be redistributed if it is eliminated.

“If the Oversight Committee is in fact eliminated, there would have to be some recommendation as to how that is going to be handed out. There’s a lot of options that could be explored through the governance review as it continues on through the executive and the next council, but it’s going to be hopefully decided very quickly,” said Ehrenholz.

This year the committee placed additional focus on “the well-being of the executive,” according to Ehrenholz — namely, providing support in order to maintain a healthy work environment.

Response to these changes was mainly positive, but the feedback collected throughout the year showed that Council wanted to be more engaged with the executive, explained Ehrenholz. 

Veronica Knott, previous Oversight Chair and current Board of Governors student representative, said that this year’s committee did well, but that the elimination is still a good step as the committee became disengaged from oversight. 

Removing oversight “will put Council and the executive in a closer relationship — making it more the AMS executive and AMS Council working together collectively,” said Knott.

Councillors raised concerns about whether this would result in the removal of executive oversight completely, but the goal of a greater connection with Council is to maintain high levels of accountability. 

While the changes are not certain, the future of each $5,000 PAI — which is currently decided based on goal-setting, executive duties and meeting attendance — is unclear if the Oversight Committee is indeed eliminated. 

“Is it just base salary, in which case no-one has to handle it, or is it an incentive? That’s a decision that we’ll have to make, and it will probably be for next Council,” says Ehrenholz.

Ehrenholz suggested getting more councillors involved to chair the initiative, potentially through an ad-hoc committee for more infrequent issues like executive pay. However, the AMS Governance Review recommended that the human resources department facilitate annual self and peer-evaluations.

AMS Councillor and previous Oversight Chair Viet Vu, however, says that self- and peer- evaluations can be tricky. 

“Self-evaluation doesn’t necessarily satisfy all of that accountability need for Council,” said Vu, noting the importance of external feedback. “If I invite you to evaluate your own research paper, you probably wouldn’t be able to be objective about it.”

If the elimination goes through, the oversight and support of the Ombudsperson will have to be taken up as well, and the issue of raising executive pay for the first time in five years will need to be addressed.

According to Knott, the current Oversight Committee is “really just about checking the box to make sure people have done their job.” 

“It’s not really oversight,” said Knott. “It needs to be more of an involved structure where it’s a feedback mechanism, with collective goal-setting that will really get all of Council more engaged.”

“As councillors we should be prepared to have those difficult times, we should be prepared for those conversations, but we need to be equipped with the tools to do so,” said Vu. “So the question you have to ask yourself is, 'is oversight effective?'”