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This question has been received from Alice in New Zealand.

The incorporated society I’m involved with is run by a manager and committee. For a couple of years the committee membership dropped until there was only one member left, and no chair, treasurer, secretary. (Manager was doing all of these duties) What should happen in a case like this? Subsequently we have worked to increase the committee numbers to a normal level, but there is now question about whether this was correct or not.

This is tricky. Whether what you have done is correct or not depends a lot on your constitution and perhaps legislation. And so I can give a general answer only.

The sad reality is if you were unable to get a chair, secretary or treasurer then that flies 2 warning flags. The first is that there may be some serious problems in the way the society runs, financial problems or serious people issues. The second is that it may indicate that there is simply no interest or need in the society.

It’s important to ask some hard questions.

If the manager was doing all the duties, you need to go back to your rules to see if that was in fact appropriate – where was the oversight – particularly financial oversight? (See my post on fraud in societies)

If you have n ow increased the committee, then you have done the right thing. It would be smart to have an audit done at this time so that there is a clear line in the sand for accountability of the new committee. If anyone opposes an audit, then that is a warning flag.

You also ask what should happen in a case where you cannot get a full committee. If a society cannot get a committee then it needs to ask some difficult questions of itself. It may be that there is a need for  a restructure. In my experience when this happens, it is nearly always a people problem.

Some years ago I was asked to assist a voluntary group. One particular family had set up the group with every best intention and there was need. The wife was the president, husband Vice President, son secretary, daughter treasurer and a couple of other people on the committee. The “family” would not let anyone else onto the committee and refused to provide any information. They received considerable funds from subscription and also some government funding. Sadly, the family while well meaning, did not have the skills to manage a community group especially the money. They also liked the “power” they had by deciding who could and could not be on the committee. It was a trainwreck. The end result was that the membership used the constitution to call a general meeting and replaced them all. The group went on to do great things.

People nearly always cause the problems when these types of issues arise. They need to be handled carefully.

If you cannot get people to serve on the committee, then my suggestion is to call a meeting to wind up the group. That nearly always brings people out of the woodwork and you get someone. The risk is that you get the wrong people. In my experience however, you nearly always get a group of good people who rescue the organisation.

Please Note: The author accepts no responsibility for anything which occurs directly or indirectly as a result of using any of the suggestions or procedures detailed in this blog. This is not, and should not be taken as legal advice. All suggestions and procedures are provided in good faith as general guidelines only and should be used in conjunction with appropriate advice relevant legislation, constitutions, rules, laws, by-laws, and with reasonable judgement. If you are in any doubt, seek appropriate advice.




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