Talk:Governance/2012 Financial review by Garfield Byrd, WMF CFO

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Could someone point me to the email/minutes where we agreed that this should be made public? I can't find a decision that I've been made aware of... Richard Symonds (WMUK) (talk) 14:35, 31 October 2012 (UTC)

Not that I don't think it should be made public: but it was my understanding that we were going to write a reply to it before it was made public... Richard Symonds (WMUK) (talk) 14:37, 31 October 2012 (UTC)
This is a public report and Jon's email dated 10 October, which you have a copy of, is sufficient in my judgement as a trustee for me to act promptly in accordance with our values. The trustees have been sent no email saying that any staff member had a plan to reply to the report, or that this was a precondition to it becoming correctly public.
I have patiently waited 3 weeks wondering when this would be made public. I see no reason for me to ask permission or to force the trustees to have yet another in-camera vote for a public report in the public interest to publish publicly, to be made public—rather than becoming another of our secret documents languishing on closed wikis or in a draft state for many months or indefinitely. Thanks -- (talk) 15:42, 31 October 2012 (UTC)
You're asking the wrong question, Richard. Where is the email/minutes where it was decided not to make it public? The default is to make everything public. --Tango (talk) 18:50, 31 October 2012 (UTC)
We're going to make it public, certainly, and as soon as possible: I'd just like the office to be involved so that we can answer questions as they come in. As it stands, I wasn't aware that it had been released on the wiki, or that it was going to be released - no-one in the office was aware. That's not ideal. My understanding was that we (me, Jon and John) were going to come up with more detailed explanations of the various points raised, and explain how we're going to go about fixing each of the issues, so that everyone has their questions answered straight away. This review was, to a large part, checking how well my work has been going: having it released without notice just before I go on a four day weekend isn't really ideal, because, well, who would be around to answer questions from members? Jon is on holiday, I'm about to go on holiday for the next two days, Mike Peel is in San Francisco with the FDC, and John Byrne may well have plans too. If these things are going to be released, they have to be released with - at a minimum - the agreement and foreknowledge of treasurer and at least one member of staff. Richard Symonds (WMUK) (talk) 19:56, 31 October 2012 (UTC)
Richard: I would prefer the default to be immediate publication with the response following when it is ready. Otherwise the response acts as a veto on publication - "We can't publish yet; the response isn't ready". Filceolaire (talk) 09:38, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
Ideally, yes, but there's a difference between having an organisation that is open, and one that has a gaping hole in it. Firstly, there's no point releasing a report if there's no-one in the office to answer questions about it. Similarly, releasing it before a plan is in place leads to us looking incompetent, because the first question people will ask is "what are you doing about this", to which our response would be "We don't really know, we need to arrange a meeting or something, we haven't even read the report yet". Finally, staff should not be expected to react on the fly to things like this. I'm paid to manage the finance and plan ahead - if reports are released immediately with plans coming afterwards, then the organisation will lurch from crisis to crisis, with no forward planning and no time to breathe. Richard Symonds (talk) 13:34, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
I disagree with pretty much every sentence of that... The point of releasing reports is not so that people can ask questions. The point is so that people have the information, they ask questions to get more information, but having the initial information is still beneficial. The response to "What are you doing?" would be "We have a meeting scheduled on DATE to produce an action plan, which will be released as soon as it is ready." No-one isn't going to view that as incompetance. Reacting on the fly is very much something we expect of staff. In fact, it is one of the main advantages of staff over volunteers - volunteers may not be available at the key time, but staff have much more reliable availability. --Tango (talk) 17:39, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
I want to express my support for Richard here. This is a very important piece of work and therefore we must get it right. I appreciate the value of openness, as we all do - it's one of the things that helps define us as an organisation - but it is certainly preferable that we get it right rather than we do it in a hurry. If the initial report was immediately published - regardless of the issue of seeking permission from the Foundation, of course - the immediate and predictable community response would be: "So, what are you doing about it?" I can't imagine that anyone, particularly our more vocal community members, would have found a response of: "Um, not sure. We haven't even read the report properly yet, let alone developed a planned response" in any way acceptable. In fact, it would have done much more harm than good, not to mention how this would have left staff (particularly Richard) chasing their own tails. As anyone who has tried to chase their own tail will know, this is exhausting, fruitless - and you never manage to catch it. Openness is important but we have to get the balance right. Efficiency is important, too. --Stevie Benton (WMUK) (talk) 09:45, 26 November 2012 (UTC)
The report is 617 words long. A typical reading rate is about 200 words per minute, so reading it is less than a five minute job. As excuses go, that one is extremely poor.
Considering each point in detail and determining the appropriate course of action to take obviously takes much longer, but you don't need to have all of that worked out before publishing it. As I said, just having scheduled a meeting to work out that detail would, I'm sure, have been enough to satisfy pretty much everyone. I'm one of the most difficult members of the community to satisfy, and it would certainly have satisfied me (of course, you would need to publish the action plan soon after that meeting).
The community isn't stupid. We understand that a consequence of publishing things straight away is that we read through it and think it through at the same time, so the staff and trustees aren't going to have all of the answers straight away. Frankly, it's rather insulting that you don't think we could handle that... --Tango (talk) 18:39, 26 November 2012 (UTC)
I won't say too much on this subject, but will observe that it is a difficult judgement for us as an organisation to make about when to take the approach of releasing something with a "response in progress" stuck on it, and when to wait until the response is ready to publish it. There is no correct general answer to that, and we have to deal with each instance as a separate judgement call. However on the whole I think we've had more difficulties in the last 3 months through not being frank enough about problems or potential problems - amongst ourselves, with our community, with the Foundation - than we've had difficulties caused by admitting to things prior to having a concrete plan in place to deal with them. The Land (talk) 20:56, 27 November 2012 (UTC)

Fae's deletion of this report from the public wiki

After publishing this document, it has become clear that it was discussed in an Executive meeting that I was not invited to, or was aware of the content of. After John Byrne emailed me today, requesting that this document was removed from the public wiki, I have done so. Jon Davies' email to me of 11 October 2012 appears to be a mistake, giving the impression that the report was released to WMUK. It has been made clear today that there is no objection from Garfield Byrd to making the report public, and there is no plan to have the report amended in any way. I will continue to push to have the report released for the benefit of Wikimedia UK's members as soon as possible in line with our stated values, as I have yet to be given any non-bureaucratic reason as to why this must be kept secret for any longer than it has already. I do not accept that we may be working on related actions plans as a good reason to withhold this document and after waiting 3 weeks without any in-camera discussion or apparent action plan being explained to the Board. I thought that nothing was going on out of sight of the trustees; in this I appear to have been mistaken. Thanks -- (talk) 18:56, 31 October 2012 (UTC)


I have to say that I am disappointed that Fæ undertook a unilateral decision to publish this document rather prematurely. The Board's intention was to publish this document along with a response to the points that it raised; unfortunately Fæ chose to not contribute to that response but instead chose to cause problems that resulted in that response being delayed. Personally, this put me in the very uncomfortable position of wanting this document to be made publicly available as soon as possible but having to delete it from this wiki and raise repeated objections to its public release until that response had been assembled. The response has now been written, and will hopefully be released in the next day or so. Mike Peel (talk) 22:06, 22 November 2012 (UTC)

The review is now up again and the response hasn't yet been posted, yet somehow the world doesn't seem to have come to an end... --Tango (talk) 00:36, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
The response should be coming very shortly, and that & this will get more of a launch then. 03:53, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
I distinctly recall contributing to the discussion about responding to Garfield's report at the recent board meeting, so "Fæ chose to not contribute to that response" seems an odd way describing our meeting. By the way, "unilateral decision" rather ignores the extensive discussion about this action by email on the Board email list. I would be happy to review my multiple in-camera emails about this report and the need for the board to comply with our stated values, and make some or all of those public if this would help.
I pushed for a full vote of the trustees in the board meeting, and releasing this document was supported by all trustees with the agreed deadline of last Tuesday to make this public. The vote is on record in the board minutes Minutes_17Nov12#d84. The discussion was clear and unambiguous. I stated the case fully and forcefully, and that is what the trustees voted on. As has been said before, Wikimedia UK's default position is for openness and transparency. I find it completely ridiculous, bureaucratic and obstructive to the implementation of our stated values, that I have been obliged to push for a formal vote of the trustees to release this audit report so that our members can have the privilege of reading it. There are no changes or corrections due on this report, it was never intended to be in confidence and Wikimedia UK's representatives officially accepted this report by 11th October 2012. It is, as it was released by Garfield on the 10th October 2012, and has been waiting to be made public for six weeks.
A full vote of trustees for every interesting or important document is not a practical solution for openness and is not how I ever imagined Wikimedia UK would choose to implement our stated values.
At the next board meeting, for all future independent audits that are not specifically commissioned to be confidential, along with their associated annexes, reports and findings, I will be strongly recommending that the auditor publishes the report promptly and unless there are outstanding unambiguous factual corrections or legal, commercial or personal privacy issues, then Wikimedia UK's policy should be for open publication, with a copy available on this wiki, within less than 5 working days of receipt. It is perfectly normal for auditors to agree corrective and preventative action as part of the review with the charity's representatives and include this with the audit report, and I recommend that this good audit and assessment practice is encouraged and may avoid a repeat of this type of indefinite and unplanned delay whilst staff and trustees consider our responses, plans, strategies and communications in order to give the best possible frame/spin for the report. -- (talk) 07:59, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
I am unclear how I "chose to not contribute to that response" when as I pointed out on this page some weeks ago, "it was discussed in an Executive meeting that I was not invited to, or was aware of the content of" and the report itself was officially accepted on behalf of the charity by Jon Davies and John Byrne without consultation with the trustees, if that process is correct, then consequently any agreed action plan must also be theirs with authority delegated by the board of trustees. These actions by the Executive do not appear to include or invite me as a trustee, who is not a member of the Executive, to spontaneously force myself to get involved in creating the response, particularly when for several weeks, up until I attempted to make the report public, I had no idea there was one being conceived as nobody thought to tell me anything about it. Odd when you think about it, considering I was specifically named by Garfield as a contributor to his audit at the top of his report. Thanks -- (talk) 15:03, 23 November 2012 (UTC)

Oh for heaven's sake Mike, how long does it take to prepare a response even if it were needed? It's been 6 weeks since the report was given by Garfield, who as far as I gathered never meant for it to be a private document. The current board need to drop its love for secrecy and remember that we're supposed to be open and transparent where being public is the norm and not the exception! -- KTC (talk) 11:13, 23 November 2012 (UTC)

KTC, I disagree. It takes (as we can see) six weeks to a. get permission from the WMF to release it and b. come up with a response, because it's not just a response: it's a response, written by volunteers and staff, and a full financial plan for getting us out of the problems we were having last year, including a substantial rewrite of the 2012 Finance Policy. In addition, there are several new financial processes which I will have to plan, write and put into action. All this in the middle of the FDC bidding process, staff holidays, and a full governance review the next day! My thoughts at the time were "Important to get the info out there quickly, but also sensibly and with a plan in place.".
There's a key difference here between "secretive" and "discrete", and I think it's good that that we all recognise that difference. An organisation like ours should be open and transparent, but we should also be aware of the problems surrounding complete, immediate, default publication of all documents, without prior notice or warning. That would be transparency for transparency's sake. There are an awful lot of things we won't make public for good reason. To make (for example) our bank statements public immediately without checking them, planning for the fallout, or getting professional input on whether it was a good idea to release them, would not be open and transparent: it would be reckless. Similarly, I don't make our staple supply costs public and post all our ink cartridge invoices online, because it would simply be a. unworkable, b. a waste of donor funds and c. would run the risk of hiding the important things in a barrage of trivial claims.
That said, if you or any other financially astute member wants to come into the office and look over the accounting processes, to suggest improvements, point out failures, or suggest simpler ways of doing things, we can (and should) schedule something. It will be terribly dull, but may well be worth it. I often find that arguments like this can be solved very easily by an in-person meeting - shall we set something up? Richard Symonds (talk) 14:22, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
As will very shortly be clear, the response essentially takes the form of a timetabled plan for implementation, which could not be done, and agreed, overnight. Johnbod (talk) 16:59, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for the clarification John. I note that if you mean the Finance Action Plan 2012/13, this was first presented to the trustees at the open board meeting last weekend and, as I recall, included a list of things that had already been done in the six weeks since Garfield's report had been accepted. Thanks -- (talk) 17:27, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
A version of it, yes. There have been some changes to the latest version. Johnbod (talk) 12:16, 26 November 2012 (UTC)