THE POSITION OF FRIENDLY SOCIETIES.
With the view of ascertaining the manner , of reception, accorded by friendly societies to , Registrar Mason's report just presented to i Parliament, a member of our staff yesterday i waited on representatives of two of the ' principal societies, and obtained from them an expresrion of opinion on the subject, MANCHESTER TJNITV. Mr P. Black, secretary to the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows, was the first interviewed. Question and answer as they came up may be set forth as follows: , , ; Reporter: Have you read Registrar Mason's report ?, . Mr Black: All of it that is of special interest to me. Do you oonsider his strictures justified by the knowledge of the finance of friendly societies that your long connection with them has enabled you to gain ?—I do not. His strictures are given with the very best intentions, no doubt. They condemn those societies who, knowing that their position is unsound, have failed to take any steps to put it to rights, But, so far as my experience goes, I think the majority of the larger societies in New Zealand, such as the Foresters and the Manchester Unity, have taken active steps since the ooming into force of the Act of 1877 to. better their financial condition ; and the Registrar in his strictures does not distinguish between the wb,eat and the chaff, po that in the eyes of the public we are all condemned, inasmuch ds they are not made aware of which societies are good and which are bad. To what causes do you consider the state of affairs disclosed in the report to be duo ? In those societies that have taken no steps to better their financial position the cause is insufficient contributions the adoption of a scheme of finance framed without the slightest actuarial knowledge. What Btops has your Order taken to improve its financial position?—We have adopted a graduated scale of contributions—we adopted it ten years ago; and, in addition, there is the fact that the society's attention was drawn to the necessity for sfoict prudence and economy in ( the management of its financial affairs. At the first valuation of the society, made shortly after the Act of 1877 came into operation—l see by the books that the valuation was made as at the 31st December, 1879—the deficiency then shown in our society as a whole was LI 1,000. At the second valuation, made five years later, the deficiency had been reduced to L 3.900. lam giving you round numbers. That decrease in the deficiency was the result of the measure we had taken to set our house in order. The valuations were made by Mr George Leslie and myself. From my own observation of how things are going since last valuation, I believe that any deficiency now existing will be more than wiped out, and that we shall show a surplus at the end of the year. That is my opinion, judging from my observations as to the society's progress. With regard to the deficiency last mentioned, you must bear in mind that it ia Bimply a net deficiency. In some branches we have a considerable surplus. The Hand and Heart Lodge, for instance—the oldest lodge in Dunedin—at last valuation had a surplus of over L 1,500 ; and the Dunedin Lodge, which is the second oldest, had a surplus of over L 1.300. What, in your opinion, should be the course of action in order to bring lodges that are financially weak to what we may call a safe position ?—Well, I do not think that coercion on the part of the Government would do good; it would do more harm than good. In my opinion, societies may be led in the matter of placing themselves in a Bound financial position, but they will not be driven, The effect of coercion, or anything that partakes of it. on the part of the Government would only result in those societies that are financially bad saying: " We want neither Government interference nor advice on this matter; and if they won't give us registration we will do without it." Hence all the good that has been accomplished, and is capable of accomplishment in the future, by registration would be lost, The only thing the Government can do is to let the public know which societies are sound and which are not, That is all, I think, that the societies would allow the Government to do.
Should the Government appoint independent auditors to inspect the books of lodges ?—That is a point which I am afraid societies would be very jealous about. At the same time, it it is right for Government to audit Corporation aocounts, I do not see why this should be considered wrong. It would doubtless do good in a great many cases, and would be a good thing for societies generally ; but it is a question as to how they would take it. Seeing that your Order has approved of a graduated scale of contributions, would you recommend other societies to adopt the same course ?—Certainly yes; in fact, it is the only safe course to pursue. How far has the Registrar's department assisted the improvement of matters relating to friendly societies, and in what way could it be made of further use in that direction?—l think that in a very great number of cases—l would not go so far as to say the majority, but in a very great number of cases—it has been the means of inducing societies to take steps to place themselves on a sounder basis than that previously existing, and the more the Registrar continues to publish statements showing the comparative position of friendly societies the more good will he do. The beßt plan to adopt in order to get weak societies to improve their condition is to publish their affairs in comparison with those of other societies, and thus as it were to shame them into a renovation.
Is there any other phase of the subject on which you could give information ?—I do not know that there is, but I should like to point out that the Registrar has drawn attention to the serious question of the suppression of valuation reports, saying in effect that if societies would publish a true statement of their position, as ascertained by valuation, the public would have a good idea as to which was the best society to join. That is aimed at certain societies, though they are not named nor distinguished from others which need not take this reproach to themselves, I say that if a society is honest it should give all possible publicity to its reports. We hand ours to the Press, and desire that everyone should read them, But there are societies that suppress their valuation reports, and I think they should be compelled to bring them to the light, in the interests of the outside public. By "bringing them to light," I mean that the societies I have been referring to should be compelled to publish their valuation reports locally; ie., just in the Bame way that the law obliges municipal and other bodies to publish their financial position for the benefit of the general public. It is as much in tbe interest of the general community that it should be done in tne one case as in the other. THE FORESTERS. The next representative waited on was Mr W. Woodland, District secretary of the Ancient Order of Foresters, to whom similar questions were propounded. The result of the interview is as follows :
Reporter: Have you read Registrar Mason's report ? Mr Woodland: Yes, I have. Do yoa consider his strictures justified by the knowledge of friendly societies that your loDg connection with them has enabled you to gain ?—Yes. For a considerable time I have thought that these societies generally do not receive sufficient for what they promise to disburse. To what causes do you consider the state of affairs disclosed in the report to be due ?—Speaking for my society, I should say the cause is insufficient contributions to the sick and funeral fund—insufficient, that is, according to the amount we pay out. All members joining during, say, the last seven years have been paying adequate contributions, but when the society was first formed here, before we had the benefit of the public valuations, members got in at too light a rate—the scale of payments was too low. For instance, persons joining from eighteen to forty years of age all paid the same amount. Now we have a graduated scale of payments. What steps has your Order taken to improve its financial position?—We taken steps to get proper valuations made by an
actuary as to what every member should pay,! and the executive intend to make it law that i the members ishould pay in accordance with this scale. It will be slightly higher .than they have beenpaying during the.last quinquennium. We,;,have a graduated scale at present, but find that it is insufficient and therefore we have resolved to increase the scale. Our new lawa are now in the printer's hands, " How far .have these remedial measures answered expectations ?—Well, as I have said, what we have done so far has been found almost sufficient, and we are going to try and do more. Then there is also the fact that the valuers' calculations are based on a 4 per cent, valuation table, while our funds are earning from 7 to 8 per cent., and this will make a considerable difference in our favor—greater than at first sight seems likely. In some instances a calculation on the actual amount earned for interest would convert the apparent deficiency into an actual surplus) What, in your opinion, should be the course of action in order to bring lodges that are financially weak to a safe position ? The only thing to be done is what we are trying to do. We are all behindhand to a certain extent. There is not the slightest doubt that those who have been in the Order some time will have to pay extra contributions.
Should the Government appoint indepen. dent auditors to inspeot the books of lodges? —No; I think not. Wefclready have public auditors if required, and the. less the Government interfere with lodges' books the better. A lodge that ib not satisfied with its auditors can at any time call in the Government auditors; and it is better to leave things in that way. But I do think that the Government should refuse to register any society that is not on a sound basis.
Seeing that your Order has approved of a graduated scale of contributions, would you recommend its adoption by other friendly societies ?—Yes; most certainly. It is the only safe way of proceeding. How far has the Registrar's department assisted the improvement of matters relating to friendly societies, and in what way could it be made of further use in that direction ?—lt has assisted in requiring societies to forward returns showing the numerical strength of each lodge, the ages of members ana of members' wives, and indicating its financial position annually. The Registrar thus knows everything about each lodge; for, if the returns are not full, or are not sent in time, he wires for them. We offer every facility to the Government to satisfy themselves that we carry out the requirements of the Act in a straightforward manner, and have no desire to cloak or hide anything about onr affairs. The department, I should say, does the work it is appointed to do, and if the office had been conducted in the same manner fifteen years or more ago the societies would have been in a better position to day. I consider that the Registrar's department has been the saving of friendly societies, in keeping them up to the standard. I should like, however, to say this : that the Government should foroe every registered society to insist upon its responsible officers—the secretaries and treasurers of every branch—giving fidelity bonds. The Act .says that this shall be done, but there are plenty of cases where those ooncerned manage to creep out of this requirement.
Interviews with representatives of the other societies could not be arranged for in time to be reported in this issue.
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THE POSITION OF FRIENDLY SOCIETIES., Evening Star, Issue 7952, 6 July 1889
THE POSITION OF FRIENDLY SOCIETIES. Evening Star, Issue 7952, 6 July 1889
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