23/01/2008 - 22:00

Clubs voice costs concerns

23/01/2008 - 22:00

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A set of draft model rules for clubs and associations is the latest outcome of the state government’s associations legislation review, yet a number of groups remain critical of the proposed changes.

A set of draft model rules for clubs and associations is the latest outcome of the state government’s associations legislation review, yet a number of groups remain critical of the proposed changes.

 

The rules were recently issued by the Department of Consumer and Employment Protection to help organisations comply with proposed amendments to the Associations Incorporations Act 1987.

 

However, several associations believe the legislation will increase administrative costs for organisations if it is passed.

 

Clubs WA has written to Consumer Protection Minister Sheila McHale on behalf of the 944 clubs it represents, requesting that the legislation be dropped.

 

The group’s executive director, Peter Seaman, said the changes would have a negative effect on clubs, particularly small ones.

 

“We’ve said (the legislation) should be pulled until the department does a social impact study of licensed clubs, to look at the value of clubs to the community,” he said.

 

“I think a study would show that the club movement needs some pressure taken off it. The government has to be careful not to place a bureaucratic burden on volunteers.”

 

Mr Seaman said one problem with the legislation was that it failed to differentiate between small and large clubs, making it difficult for clubs with few resources to perform tasks such as appointing a public officer.

 

Under the draft legislation, every association would be required to appoint a public officer from its management committee, which would then report to a new DOCEP commissioner.

 

“We’re opposed to clubs having to appoint a public officer with the sole purpose of advising the department each year of the club’s activities,” Mr Seaman said.

 

He said it was also concerning that a club’s public officer may be personally liable for breaches of regulations.

 

“Creating a new fine regime for the volunteer network is absolute nonsense. The only outcome can be mass non-compliance, which leads to fines and then a huge wave of resignations of volunteers,” Mr Seaman said.

 

Surf Life Saving WA chief executive Paul Andrew said while he supported the intention of the changes, large associations already had sufficient compliance measures in place through their internal constitutions.

 

He said having an external commissioner to oversee financial compliance and management issues would duplicate administration.

 

“For those organisations that don’t have infrastructure in place, by all means have a person to assist with dispute resolution. But here, they’ve put in another layer of administration,” Mr Andrew said.

 

“You need an appeals process, but an external body may not have a good understanding of the organisation.”

 

Notre Dame associate professor of accounting and finance, David Gilchrist, said some of the auditing and accounting requirements would be difficult for groups to implement, and were likely to increase costs.

 

“Not for profits will simply see their auditing costs go up, or won’t be able to comply with the regulations,” he said.

 

“Also, some of the accounting terms in the legislation are confusing, and don’t comply with the terminology used by the accounting industry.”

 

Professor Gilchrist said small associations would also struggle to meet new governance requirements.

 

“The fact is that smaller not-for-profit groups don’t necessarily have the capacity to meet regulations in this area, and for others it will be at the expense of the community service they provide,” he said.

 

“There also needs to be a whole-of-government approach. It’s one thing for DOCEP to strike a piece of legislation, but other departments such as Child Protection or the Disability Services Commissions are using a lot of not-for-profits to deliver services and should be involved.”

 

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