Risky Business: why IMA Belgium needs to be an ASBL/VZW

For over 30 years IMA Belgium (formerly EUMA - European Management Assistants and EAPS - European Association of Professional Secretaries) was an 'association de faite' or 'feitelijke vereniging', without legal status, without insurance. At various points in the past the National Committee discussed the fact that we needed a more solid legal entity. First, it was too costly and cumbersome in terms of accounting requirements. Then, when our accounting system became more professional (thanks to consecutive Treasurers, Elke De Backer, Pascale Neirynck and Frieda Catteeuw), we never found the time nor the people to look into this thoroughly.

Bearing in mind the last minute cancellation for technical reasons of the physical test during the May 2018 Training Day (a vertical walk down from a wall) I thought it was really time to do something about our legal status and insurance. I know hotels and suppliers have insurance, but in case of a catastrophe, their insurance companies would come after us and we would have no legal representation. As long as IMA Belgium remains a loose association, the three elected officers and possibly all registered members in any given year could be held individually accountable in case of an incident. It does not bear thinking about.

I raised the issue at the new IMA Belgium National Committee (13 people strong!) on 5 July 2018. Muriel Dewandre (Eurocontrol) and Sabine Cruyt (Triodos Bank, with a past career at AXA Insurance) immediately jumped on this bandwagon and promised to contact a lawyer, a broker, former colleagues, family and friends to gather more information. Within 24 hours they came back with practical questions and within one week we had a list of next administrative steps, an offer from a lawyer and a broker and all was set to take a decision at the following Full Team Meeting on 1 August. As this issue deals with safeguarding the association (an important duty of the National Committee), we took an immediate decision to set up the legal structure. The impact on the budget will be reasonable, with a very fair one-off cost for the lawyer, a one-off registration fee, and reasonable recurrent annual fees for the insurance broker and the auditor. The budgetary details will be explained by Danielle Struyven, the National Treasurer, at the Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of 20 September 2018.

In the meantime, the lawyer is adapting the French version of the international statutes to be compliant with Belgian law; we found 3 founding members and 2 administrators to figure in the statutes; we found the insurance broker and the auditor/fiduciary. As we do not have a physical address for our association, the fiduciary's address will serve as our legal address and he will audit our accounts once a year. The insurance policy will cover our activities with members, visitors, and guest speakers.

A big shout out to Muriel Dewandre and Sabine Cruyt! You two ladies are a great asset to the team: you volunteered to do something and you took immediate action. Your feedback to the team was swift, detailed and accurate and helped us to make a well founded decision. A warm thank you to you both. It is a pleasure to have you on board.

Greet Puttaert

3 August 2018