If your organisation is accountable this means that it acts in a way that satisfies the expectations that are required of you. Organisations are often accountable to individuals within and outside the organisation as well as other organisations.
Most community organisations are accountable to:
- people who use the organisation or clients
- members of the association and the community
- any funding bodies that provide grants
- any licensing body that licenses services under regulation
- any paid employees or volunteers
There are many areas of accountability where your responsibilities are clearly defined and may be legally enforced. However, the ethics or values of your organisation may determine how you meet other areas of accountability. To be accountable you will need to be aware of what is expected of your organisation and develop ways of showing that they are doing what is expected and/or agreed.
Associations Incorporation Act
The Associations Incorporation Act is clear about the responsibilities of incorporated associations and the penalties for not complying. The Act details obligations about annual general meetings, altering the rules, changes to office holders and financial and business registration requirements. To ensure that you understand all of these obligations you can contact the Office of Fair Trading, check the Act or ask for professional legal advice. You will need to set up systems of information management and reporting to enable your association to meet these obligations.
An organisation that is accountable to its clients will ask them for feedback about the service it provides and involve them in making decisions. You may also want to develop ways of dealing with complaints from clients through policies or procedures that reflect your values and ethics and ensure that any issues are resolved fairly.
There are also laws about how clients should be treated including anti-discrimination legislation, consumer protection legislation and the protection of children and young people. You also have a duty of care to clients and staff to ensure their safety while they are on the organisation’s premises. The organisation is responsible for maintaining the premises so they are safe and taking out public liability insurance.
Members of the association and the community
Your association will have specific obligations to members and the public under the Act such as advertising your annual general meeting widely and publishing an annual report. You might also want to consider other ways of being more accountable to the community. You might decide to hold some open meetings to allow other members and the public to attend or provide information about your organisation’s activities to the local media so the community can learn more about what you do.
If your organisation receives money from a funding body, you will need to ensure that you meet their requirements. This might involve completing a Service Agreement providing project reports and financial information, evaluating the service that your organisation provides and ensuring that you meet the funding guidelines.
Employees and volunteers
The management committee is responsible for establishing acceptable work conditions for the organisation’s employees through clear policies and good staff management practices that may also be applied to volunteers.
The employees of the organisation are accountable to the organisation to perform their job well. There is usually an expectation that volunteers will also be accountable to the organisation.
An organisation that employs staff will need to meet its obligations under all the state and federal laws that cover employment such as anti-discrimination legislation, industrial relations legislation, workplace health and safety and work choices legislation. The organisation will also need to ensure that superannuation is paid, insurance for workers compensation is kept up to date and the correct amount of tax is deducted from employees’ salaries and sent to the Australian Taxation Office.
In Queensland, the organisation will need to make sure that all employees, volunteers and students have a ‘working with children check’ to ensure that they are suitable. You can contact the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian to find out more about this requirement.
Other legal obligations
Incorporated associations also have a number of important legal obligations under state and federal business, taxation and other legislation.
Contract law will cover any formal agreement that you have with a funding body, leases on premises, cars or other goods and other contracts with individuals or organisations.
Depending on your organisation, it may be accountable to state and federal authorities for income tax, fringe benefits tax, land tax, payroll tax and stamp duty.
If your association is involved in fundraising from the public and not just its own members, you may also need to find out about your obligations from the Office of Fair Trading.
Your association may want to contact the Australian Taxation Office, Office of State Revenue, Office of Fair Trading or contact a solicitor and/or accountant to find out more about these obligations.
- Office of Fair Trading information about how an association should be run and requirements for incorporated associations
- Australian Taxation Office links to information for not-for-profit organisations
- Queensland University of Technology has information about legal and financial obligations (Please check the with the Office of Fair Trading to ensure that this information is still current)
- Community Door links to information about reporting requirements
- Management Support Online (registration is required):
- information about accountability
- legal issues and insurances