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

Bence Damokos bdamokos at gmail.com
Mon May 13 21:01:19 UTC 2013

Hi Tomasz,

On Mon, May 13, 2013 at 10:14 PM, Tomasz W. Kozlowski <
tomasz at twkozlowski.net> wrote:

> Gregory Varnum wrote:
>  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.
> Let me just straighten this, Greg. Nobody has ever contacted me via e-mail
> about this except for the insults aimed at me after my first blog post on
> the matter — and you as an AffCom member should be especially aware of
> this, as the whole of AffCom was CC'd to every message that I received.
I apologise if the tone of some of the e-mails you have received were
harmful, and I am sorry for my involvement in that.
I think it really came down to the fact that we were quite surprised at the
time that as a committee member or adviser you did not feel able to raise
the issue or issues that you were perceiving. This lack of trust or ability
to communicate openly really saddened me.

>  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.
> Which is opposite to what the Committee has been doing so far; for
> instance, during the last Committee meeting, the then-ChapCom members have
> been using the same accommodation as the rest of the conference
> participants — and that was a true a cost-saving decision.
If I remember correctly, at the time the Committee did not have a budget
and a number of details around fiscal responsibility ended up very
complicated out of sheer goodwill (with certain chapters paying AffCom
members' travel, Wikimedia Germany kindly offering to pay for those who had
to stay only an extra night, and the WMF paying from the Board's budget for
the rest) and the choice was probably made by me to stay with the chapter
delegates as that was the default.

In any case, with the dedicated budget we have taken steps to greater
clarity and accountability and this involves making sure that the WMF pays
for AffCom travel, and that in turn we follow WMF policy on reimbursement
and choice of accommodation and in any other way they may prescribe for
spending our budget.
Technically and individually we could decide on anything that is cheaper
than what is allowed by policy (e.g. shared accommodation, or different
level of comfort), but those decisions would be made on the grounds of such
factors as the accommodation choice of others with whom we would want to
meet in off hours (including other AffCom or community members), medical
reasons, or strong personal aversion to a particular lodging.

I believe that the details of the travel policy of the WMF are up to the
WMF to set and I don't think it is a good use of AffCom time to micromanage
the WMF's travel budget. If the WMF did decide that from now on it would
choose five-star hotels or only hostels with communal showers, would both
be unfortunate, but AffCom would then follow that policy. This is
regardless of whether personally I believe the WMF is making the best
choices when it comes to choosing accommodation, it is simply not our role
as AffCom to fix the WMF's travel policy, nor do I see much benefit in
"setting an example" when in reality AffCom only makes up a fraction of WMF
travellers (including those going to Wikimania).

I am quite confident in the level of financial oversight the board and WMF
staff provide in making sure our budget is reasonable in the context of WMF
spending. I personally have spent a lot of time making sure our budget was
not seen as unreasonable or bloated by the WMF.

We have made the decision to spend on an annual meeting, scholarships for
affiliates to be (for Wikimania and other events), start up grants, and
travel in general to be represented at events and to visit affiliates – I
think it would be more interesting to have a discussion about these
decisions than the choice of hotels or whether we could save a few dollars
by walking instead of taking the bus from the airport.

Best regards,

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