As a regular resident of a housing society, it can be tough to imagine the behind the scenes operational framework that holds the entire bulk of a gated community. A significant aspect of a well-run society is how it maintains its records so that when push comes to shove, no fingers can be pointed on a misplaced agreement or a missing register entry. Here’s where the conscientiousness and even the dexterity of committee members is tested. So how should a society preserve and maintain its records and what records are to be maintained permanently and which ones should be managed for a long term? Let’s find out in this article.
A society is liable to maintain the below-listed records on a permanent basis:
- Minutes of Meeting Book of general, special and annual meetings
- Member Register
- Register of Shares, Debentures and Bonds (with counterfoils)
- Stock Register/Dead Stock Register and Property Register
- Cash Book
- General and Personal Ledgers
- Model Bye-laws
- Audit and Inspection Reports/Notes (internal and govt auditors)
- Audit Rectification Reports
- Library Register
- Investment Register
- Fixed Deposit Ledger
- Purchase and Sale Register and all pertinent correspondence
- Power of Attorney Register
- Declaration Forms and Nomination Forms
- Indemnity Bonds of lost share certificates/lost receipts, etc.(if any)
- Membership applications
- Shares Applications along with Share Transfer Applications in a separate section in the Share Register
- A book of rules, codes of conduct, bye-laws, bye-law amendments, Registration Certificate, leaflets, circulars, notices, etc.
- File of official communication with Registrar, local authorities, municipal corporation, other societies, banking/financial institutions, Auditor, Architect, Builder, Contractor, etc.
- File of Conveyance Deed, Title, Contracts, Agreements, Insurance Policies, Loan Applications/Grants
- Sanctioned Plans, Layouts, Allotment of flats, shops, etc.
- Staff Records
- Sinking Fund Register
- Bank Passbooks, Annual Statement Accounts, P&L reports, etc.
Other records to be maintained for a minimum period of five to a maximum of ten years:
- Collection and Bills Receivables Register
- Records of defaulters with interest and paid/unpaid columns
- Repair/maintenance records
- Expense/purchase/earning register for society’s functions/ rented out premises, etc.
- Complaints or grievances filed by members, vendors, any other
- Branch Ledgers/Draft Register
- Payment slips with counterfoil
- Staff salary book
- Inventory Register
- Current/saving bank account records, pertaining correspondence
- Account opening records/ branch records
- Cheque Books, Current and saving account deposit/withdrawal records and ledgers
- Specimen Signature Forms
- Loan (lending/borrowing) Ledgers and (minimum to maximum) Credit Limit Register
- Cash vouchers and petty cash registers with payment received counterfoils
- Credit Register with creditworthiness reports
- Other books and records necessitated by the managing committee for maintenance
Why should a society maintain proper records?
The simplest and the most compelling answer to that question is accountability. Over and above that, it is also mandatory to comply to the housing society’s record preservation laws clearly described in each state’s model bye-laws, Co-operative Societies Act and Cooperative Societies Rules. The Committee’s Secretary and Treasurer are jointly responsible for preserving, maintaining and updating all and any records mentioned above. The Registrar, government (and even members) have the right to inspect society’s records (especially audit reports) with a general or special order and call for them to be produced after a notice. Once the Managing Committee’s duration in office is completed, the handover should be done in the first meeting of the new managing committee. Office bearers who fail to handover records with due diligence are penalised under the law and the Registrar may decide to bar them from contesting elections too. The records should be made available to members for inspection. Immaculate record keeping discourages committee members from any fraud or embezzlement and leads to a definitive paper trail in case if any unintentional mix-up occurs.
How should a society preserve its records?
The Secretary is responsible for keeping the records safe within the society’s office. If not, the society should preserve them at another fixed location. Many societies make digitally scanned copies of important records with back-ups, a highly recommended measure for safekeeping. In a society with over 50 to 100 members, many societies hire a salaried office manager and at times even multiple managers (full time or part-time) assigned to each block so that the recordkeeping is well taken care of along with overall supervision. However, such a person should be qualified with a diploma in co-operative housing society management or qualified as per the directives of the Commissioner for Co-operation. Smaller societies usually entrust the Managing Committee office bearers with record keeping duties. Societies can find free crash courses on record maintenance online in order to educate themselves in the essentials of record keeping.
Another vital ingredient of record keeping involves destroying old records. After several years of operation, records keep piling up, making it highly cumbersome and inconvenient for the office bearers to safely preserve them or to even find space to keep them. This is the reason why a provision has been made by the Commissioner of Cooperation in agreement with the Registrar of Co-operative Societies for societies to be able to destroy their records after a prescribed period of time. Of course, the records that are to be maintained permanently cannot ever be destroyed. So the office bearers have to be careful while sifting through records to make sure only the dispensable ones are removed for disposal. The ones that can be disposed off, however, have to be first compiled and circulated among every member of the Managing Committee so that no oversight can occur and if anything crucial is put out for destruction in error, many pairs of eyes can help identify the mistake. Only after the committee members have approved the records for disposal, can the final destruction of records should commence. Shredded paper can be sent to a recycling plant instead of being dumped in a landfill.