[Wikimedia-l] AffComs $40,000 Hong Kong junket

Gregory Varnum gregory.varnum at gmail.com
Mon May 13 19:58:33 UTC 2013

I should start by saying I am NOT the official spokesperson for AffCom on this, I would look to Bence for that.  But I do have some personal thoughts I'll share..since you asked.

I am not sure what you mean by none of the members being willing to comment.  Our chair has responded several times on Meta and many others have responded to Odder via email about this.  I do NOT think it is a good idea to respond on any blog, but agree that we should be responding to questions on Meta..which is why we've been doing just that.  I think allowing Bence to officially respond is also appropriate as he gets the committee's feedback as appropriate.

I think we have been transparent about this, and have not avoided any questions.  Can you please be specific about what you mean?   The only questions without a complete answer is what the agenda for the meeting is, and that's simply a matter of it not yet being finalized - nothing is being withheld.

The hotel is in-line with WMF guidelines and as has been noted, we look to the staff to book those reservations and make appropriate cost-saving decisions.  I am confident they will take the best cost-cutting measures possible, but budgets need to plan for the possibility of deals not being possible for whatever reasons.  I think it would be irresponsible to budget optimistically rather than realistically.

As has been pointed out on Meta as well, this was written with input from chapter leaders during the Milan conference, our staff liaisons, and our board contacts.  Those folks were involved with all parts of this proposal.

I also think it should be pointed out that our budget proposals have to be reviewed and accepted by the board, so it is not as though AffCom is independently deciding to spend money with no oversight, or checks and balances.

I do not personally have a problem with AffCom being called out, as I agree, it's appropriate for that to happen at any time.  However, I think it is important to note the actions that were taken, and the hours of time spent seeking input and responding to questions.  As you said, we are members of the community who volunteer, so I believe that time should be valued and respected, rather than quickly dismissed.

-greg aka varnent

On 13 May 2013, at 3:30 PM, Russavia <russavia.wikipedia at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi all,
> It recently came to my attention by way of this blog by Odder
> (http://twkozlowski.net/how-40k-dollars-turned-to-petty-cash/) that
> the AffCom approved a $40,000 budget to send 9 of their members to HKG
> in August (the 10th member lives in HKG). The issue was raised at
> http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Talk:Affiliations_Committee#.2440.2C000_Hong_Kong_junket.3F
> (I see the words "transparent" being used there a lot).
> The budget request resolution was then published a
> http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Affiliations_Committee/Resolutions/Budget_request_for_2013_annual_meeting_%E2%80%93_April_2013
> - discussion has carried on at
> http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Talk:Affiliations_Committee/Resolutions/Budget_request_for_2013_annual_meeting_%E2%80%93_April_2013
> What we are seeing is that there is a lot evasive answers, with
> questions not really being answered. After asking about accommodation,
> it's been advised that AffCom is basically budgeting approximately
> US$12,600 towards accommodation (based upon NINE single rooms for 7
> nights at a cost of $200 per night). This, I feel, is an outrageous
> amount of money to be spending. There is no reason that twin rooms can
> not be used (i.e. 2 per room); or less "luxurious" accommodation can
> be booked.
> I understand that the guys on AffCom might feel like they are being
> singled out here, but given that they are members of the community,
> first and foremost, they should be open to such criticism on their
> spending. It's unfortunate that none of the 9 feel it necessary to
> comment there, given all the talk of transparency.
> Perhaps some gentle nudges from others in the community (especially
> those involved with Chapter wikipolitics) could get this particular
> committee to understand that although WMF is flush with cash, this is
> simply not on. I'll leave other issues which have been raised to
> others. Odder's latest blog at
> http://twkozlowski.net/saving-by-spending-according-to-affcom/ might
> be of interest.
> Cheers,
> Russavia
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