1. Types of records to be kept
There is a wide variety of records that an association should keep as a matter of good policy and sound administration. Some records, however, are required to be kept by law (eg a members' register, employment records and tax records).
1.1 Records required by the Act
The Act requires an association to make sure that the following records are kept:
- an up-to-date register of all members, including their residential or postal addresses;
- an up-to-date version of the rules;
- a list of the names and addresses of people who are office holders under the rules of the association, including committee members, any trustees, and those authorised to use the common seal;
- accounting records that correctly record and explain the financial transactions and position of the association in such a manner that allows true and fair accounts to be prepared; and
- every disclosure of interest made by a committee member (to be recorded in the minutes of the meeting at which the disclosure was made).
The Commissioner for Consumer Protection can request an association to produce any or all of the records listed above. Under the Act, members have the right to inspect and copy each of the first three records listed above (see also Members access to the records).
Minutes of all meetings, especially of the AGM and management committee, should be recorded, approved and filed for easy retrieval (see also Meetings).
Approved minutes provide an official record of:
- Business discussed;
- Correspondence received;
- Reports tabled;
- Decisions made; and
- Resolutions adopted.
Recorded decisions should clearly state:
- what decision has been made;
- who will be responsible for its implementation;
- when the decision is to be implemented by;
- if the decision is to be reviewed, and if so, when and by whom; and
- who should be notified of the decision and how.
In addition to minutes, it is a common practice for associations to keep a register of all significant resolutions passed by the association over time so that they are collected in one place.
The Act requires that adequate notice of association meetings and special resolutions be given to all members, and that notice periods be specified in the rules of association. Notices of meetings should include the time, date, place and general purpose of the meeting, and be given in accordance to the rules of the association. It's a good idea to keep copies of notices, showing the date of issue in case of later dispute. Notices are often filed with the related minutes.
1.4 Financial records
As already noted, the Act requires associations to keep records of the association's finances. Taxation and industrial legislation also require financial records to be kept.
Apart from these legal obligations, effective management committees need clear and accurate up-to-date financial information to keep them well-informed and to ensure that the association and its services remain viable.
The requirements of the Act are quite specific:
- Associations must keep sufficient accounting (or financial) records so that the financial transactions and financial position of the association are correctly recorded; and
- These records need to be kept in a way that will allow true and fair accounts (or financial statements) to be prepared from time to time, and so that these accounts can be conveniently audited if required.
- The types of accounting records that associations need to keep varies depending on their size and complexity, but we can safely assume that it is not sufficient to simply keep the cheque-book and receipts in a shoebox.
These requirements are discussed in more detail in the following section (see Accounts and Auditing).
1.5 Certificate of Incorporation
This is the certificate that is issued when the association is first incorporated or if an association changes its name. It is important that the certificate is kept in a safe place because it is evidence of the association’s corporate status and can be required, for example, when applying for funding grants or opening a bank account.
If you can’t locate the certificate, an association can apply to have a duplicate issued by writing to Consumer Protection, either on letterhead paper, or with the common seal affixed to the letter. Please note that a small fee applies for Consumer Protection to provide a duplicate certificate. Click here to access an Application for a Replacement Certificate form.
1.6 Annual report
Many medium to large associations compile an Annual Report, which is tabled at the AGM. An annual report is an excellent way of summarising the main achievements and highlights of the past 12 months.
There is no set format for an annual report, but it can include the following items:
- Chairperson's report;
- Staff report;
- Activity report;
- Annual statistics;
- Annual financial report;
- Interest stories, highlights and low points; or
- List of staff, management and volunteers
Where an Annual Report is produced, it is general practice to include the annual financial report. An annual financial report is required under the Act, so this is a convenient way of ensuring that the association meets its obligation to submit its annual accounts to its members at the AGM. Many associations distribute an annual report as a public relations exercise. Some funding agreements require annual reports.
1.7 Employment records
In addition to the records required by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and State and Commonwealth industrial laws (see Employment), associations may wish to set up some of the following employment related record systems that can help organisations run smoothly.
These could include:
- Records of all job descriptions, selection criteria, related industrial agreements, past advertisements and job position evaluations;
- Records of selection processes and outcomes;
- Formal records of any meeting or discussion related to issues of employee performance and position review;
- Formal documentation of all proceedings related to any employer/employee, employee/employee, or employee/third party grievance;
- Records on staff training and professional development; or
- Filed copies of all correspondence and memoranda relating to individual conditions of employment, changes or requests.
1.8 Safety records
Occupational health and safety assessments and data should be kept as a means of recording the association's management of its legal responsibilities to provide a safe workplace (see also Occupational Health and Safety).
Complaints, incidents, risk management analysis, training details, safety committee minutes, and copies of specific management committee resolutions regarding health and safety should be kept in a separate file for easy access and reference.
1.9 Insurance records
Copies of all insurance policies should be kept in a secure place. Changes to policies should be updated on the files immediately when they are received.
Insurance policies may require an association to keep specific records in addition to those already kept, for the purposes of validating a policy. Such records may include health declarations, assets register, numbers of volunteers and number of hours undertaking certain activities.
Associations are required to notify their insurer as soon as possible after the occurrence of certain events such as an accident, theft or fire. It is important that associations keep copies of all notifications and correspondence to prevent the possibility of any dispute regarding an association's obligations.
1.10 Service delivery records
Some associations need to have some means of recording its service delivery and activities in order to:
- acknowledge achievements;
- minimise risk of professional negligence;
- facilitate communications and change overs;
- ensure industry or professionally based requirements are met; and
- assist in evaluation and planning.
This may take the form of statistic sheets, case files or employee reports.
Funding arrangements may also require certain records to be kept and reported on. Failure to properly keep the records or report as required (quarterly, annually) may result in a breach of funding agreement and subsequent loss of funding.