Photo: © Shutterstock.com/John Williams RUS. You don’t need to be a city slicker to handle club cash, but you do need to be 100 per cent honest when dealing with the club finances 

A good club treasurer is most certainly an officer to cherish and can be hard to recruit. But the wrong choice can land a club in serious bother, as FRED WRIGHT explains.

IT’S the first quarter of the calendar year and AGMs are in season. Many clubs are finding it more and more difficult to persuade people to take on an officer’s job. However, that’s no excuse for putting someone who is totally unsuitable into a role.

For example, a chairman needs some organisational qualities. The club secretary needs to be a communicator, and a treasurer needs to be honest to be able to prepare and keep simple accounts and to be reliable when handling money. However, recently it has come to my attention that a couple of clubs have put themselves into a mess with their financial matters. That means the treasurer is either failing in his or her duties; or perhaps, even more simple than that, the members have failed to put an able and honest person into that treasurer’s position.

A club chairman can make a bit of a mess of things and their club will usually survive, and a secretary might not be great at his or her job, yet the club keeps going and someone will usually help out. However, if the wrong person goes into the treasurer’s role then it can be a couple of years before what is happening fully comes to light.

Merely because someone offers to take on the treasurer’s job does not mean that they are honest. Over the years, I have seen clubs pass lots of cash to their “bean counter” without ever doubting that officer’s integrity. Let’s think about raffle money at a bird show: there could be several hundred pounds in cash being passed over and we have no way of checking that all of the money finds its way into the club accounts. Maybe it should become more usual for a club to have a couple of its members count the raffle money before it goes to the treasurer. Cheques are becoming less popular, but two people signing a cheque is not a bad idea. Those popular bank transfers are the norm now, though they are open to problems.

The most obvious opportunity for a club to take stock on its treasurer comes at its AGM. At that meeting, the club members have every right to expect a set of accounts to be presented and they need to be audited by one, or even two, long-standing members. Many treasurers don’t seem to like the idea of a club having an auditor. But it protects the club and I believe it protects the treasurer, too.

It is all too easy to assume it’s the treasurer who is the potential “bad guy”. Well, he or she might be, but I do believe that the club and its members have a huge role to play in all this. The club needs to appoint the right people to these important roles and be somewhat uneasy about the person who is always keen to handle the money every year. The AGM is an important meeting once a year. It’s the time to set your club on a sound footing for the year to come.

If your club treasurer stands up at the AGM with no accounts, nothing audited, and waffles away about being busy and not having the time to prepare the accounts – be suspicious. If they come to the AGM year after year with a variation of the same story, think seriously about replacing them. If they say they do not have time to do the job properly, it’s time to get another member to do the job.

Over the years in this wonderful hobby I think I have seen it all. Most unscrupulous officers get caught out quite quickly, but I have seen some get away with it for years and years. There would always be doubts about some people, but when they got pulled down, they fell from a great height.

Many years ago, I was working for a large organisation and I was suspicious about two people who always wanted to be involved in major finance projects, especially projects of one particular type. At one time this organisation was spending more than £25,000 a year on those projects. Every time such a project went out to tender for quotes, one small business seemed to get the job. The final invoice always came from this tiny company. However, once a few more people got suspicious, we discovered that a much larger business was actually doing all the work.

It just so happened that one of those two employees had been heavily involved with this company in the past and had actually held a responsible position in it. Nothing was ever proven, but it left a nasty taste – and the duo quickly vanished from the scene.

For more features from Cage & Aviary Birds, click here