Swansea President caught in expenses scandal

Raja, pictured here at Searcy's Champagne Bar

Raja, pictured here at Searcy’s Champagne Bar

SWANSEA University Students’ Union President, Zahid Raja, is under investigation relating to expenses claims over the last month.

The investigation was launched after Raja submitted a claim for a trip to the Universities UK Reception, held by The Lord Mayor of London (Alderman Fiona Woolf), in London on the 4th March. The total claim was for £416.

On the invoice was a claim for £227 in train fares and £189 for three single rooms in a London hotel for himself, International officer Eva Donoghue, and an elections candidate (who did not attend the event in any official capacity, and whom the Union has denied giving Raja permission to take). Also on the invoice were other expenses which have been rejected by the Union and are yet to be resubmitted.

The four-hour train journey from Swansea to London can cost as little as £114 with three student railcards; £155 (off-peak return) without. The event the trio attended ended at 7:15 pm, and questions have been raised as to the need to stay overnight, at a cost of £189 to the Union.

Raja posted a picture on social media shortly after the event, tagged with a location at Searcy’s Champagne bar (at Paddington Station), with two glasses of champagne; each glass costing £17.50.

The other officer, Eva Donoghue, who accompanied Raja and the candidate on the trip was involved in another scandal a few days later, when Donoghue and a friend (who the Union had authorised to accompany her, despite her holding no official position) arrived a day early at a conference in Milton Keynes. The friend allegedly posted on social media “Eva Donoghue and I show up for a conference a day early… guess we get an extra day to spend at the hotel pool and sauna.”

Swansea Students’ Union have confirmed that the expenses to attend that conference have been reimbursed, a total of £513 (before meal provisions and other claims) for the two students to attend the conference.

When asked about this scandal, an anonymous Students’ Union officer said: “These allegations against the president are extremely concerning, and a formal investigation should be conducted immediately.

“The fact that the other person involved is a presidential candidate is also very concerning, and I would hope he would have the grace to withdraw from the election.

su-logo“I’m sure all students will hope the issue is resolved as soon as possible and that the union conducts itself as professionally as possible throughout the investigation and aftermath.”

Raja defended himself by saying: “Much like in any other Students’ Union of our size, the President doesn’t seek permission to go to conferences / take students where if their interest is furthered, it benefits the student body. If this were the case, more than half of my time at work would be spent in red tape. I would question what political motivations lie beneath ‘the Union’ now quizzing this single trip ahead of a FTO election where the candidate in question is not an incumbent. It smacks of double standards.”

A Waterfront (Swansea Student Media) reporter, who did not wish to be named, said: “At this time, I am censored and am unable to provide any information about an alleged expenses investigation”.

Similarly to Aberystwyth Students’ Union, Swansea is partially funded by a block grant from the University, and partially by profit from commercial services. At Swansea, these include Costcutter, Fulton Outfitters, bar & coffeehouse JC’s, and nightclubs Divas and Sin City.