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Re: DPL election IRC Debate - Call for questions

On Tuesday 15 March 2005 06:05 am, Anthony Towns wrote:
> Hrm; from my archives of spi-private, I'd been complaining about the
> lack of transparency in financial mangement since 13th Jan 2003, at
> which point, aiui, donations had not been accepted at all for over six
> months. SPI members who are subscribed to spi-private and care, can
> probably follow:
> http://lists.spi-inc.org/cgi-bin/private/spi-private/2003-January/000083.ht

Yes. You and Branden are the only candidates who have shown a genuine interest 
in the financial problems. Branden is arguably in the lead from a 
"hands-on/work-done" perspective and you've seen how much slack I cut him. 
Still, I commend you for being aware and persistant.

> I think Martin's done exactly the right thing here, which is to
> diversify Debian's holdings on a country-by-country basis -- both
> because it means we're not putting all our eggs in one basket, and
> because it keeps the funds close to where they're going to be spent.
> Debian is a global organisation, and collecting all our funds in the US
> isn't really a very sensible thing to do, no matter how well it's
> managed once it's there.

I agree with your approach. It mitigates the risk of organizational failures 
and there are legal reasons that make it worth spreading the assets around. 
However, there are a number of implications to this policy.

- It begins to appear that Debian is a legal entity distinct from SPI that has 
international monetary holdings. Either that or there are a number of legal 
entities which a Debian participant may choose as its "hosting authority" for 
legal and financial representation. In either case, there seem to be complex 
issues at stake that are not addressed by Debian policy. As DPL, would you 
assemble a finance and operations committee to address these matters and make 
them part of Debian policy?

- We need to insure that our money is as safe in the hands of other 
organizations as it is in SPI's (ha ha). What standard is there for the 
behavior and structure of these hosting organizations? Who do they execute a 
binding contract with so that if someone within Debian (an organization of 
nebulous legal status) tells them to do something with the money they must in 
fact do it? 

> I've had the opportunity to help that process from the other end by my
> involvement in Linux Australia, Inc recently, and I'm pleased that
> that's already resulted in some progress [0]. Fortunately, the LA
> treasurer, Mark Tearle, will be doing all the actual work. :)

Excellent news. See above.

> Beyond that, though, I think SPI's problems are something the SPI board
> will have to work out themselves, and from what I've seen, things do in
> fact seem to be improving. I hope that continues.

Really, considering that Debian lost enough money to buy a multi-terabyte 
storage array do you honestly feel this is a "problem that will work itself 
out"? When a person cares enough about the project to sit down and write us a 
check I do not think we can fail to process those monies. A donation is the 
most serious contribution a non-technical user can make to our effort and 
that contribution deserves the highest respect.

The accounting solution at SPI is still tenuous. Illness, accident or simple 
boredom could still easily lead us to the situation we had before. The 
solution you've outlined could work but it increases complexity rather than 
removing it. I don't know what it takes to make this clear but 
non-professional, volunteer accounting help is not working for Debian. It has 
never worked well and it is just barely working now. Shifting responsibility 
to multiple organizations will only create more problems unless there is some 
measure of quality in place that these organizations must meet.

Ean Schuessler, CTO
Brainfood, Inc.

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