Community accountability means direct communication with the people to provide information to and to receive feedback and input from Band Members. It provides an opportunity to discuss Band Council business in an open and transparent manner. Community Accountability is achieved through a number of processes including the Annual Report, the audit, and the Annual General Meeting (AGM).
Duly-elected democratic governments must be held accountable to the electorate. The AGM gives the government a face-to-face opportunity to report to the community and to account for the decisions it has made on behalf of the community's best interests.
The AGM is the official opportunity to hear what the Chief and Council have to say and provide direct feedback. AGMs are open community forums which all community members are invited to attend. At the AGM, Band Council reports on "what we did" and "what we want to do" in the now current year. The audit is formally tabled with the members and the Annual Report is presented and distributed.
Minimum requirements for the AGM include:
- completed audit summary
- program reports
- established goals for now current fiscal year
- The first step in planning the AGM is to ensure that the audit and Annual Report are completed and made available to the community at least a month prior to the meeting (e.g., by September).
- The month of October is a good time in the fiscal year in which to hold the AGM. This date gives the Band administration a chance to receive final approval of the audit, prepare the Annual Report and make both available to the community, set goals for the new fiscal year, consider mandates, and have first quarter results of the current year to share, if necessary. During the month of October, Band Council and staff must choose an appropriate day for the meeting. It is important to schedule the AGM at a time when there will be no conflicts with other community events such as a special gathering or weekly meetings.
- The next step is to ensure that community members are aware the AGM is scheduled, where it is being held, and give the date and time. We recommend that Band staff use several methods to let the community know about the AGM: notices in newsletters and local papers, posters around the community, and messages on local radio and tv stations.
- An agenda must then be set for the AGM (see Sample AGM Agenda).
- Following the formal presentation there is usually an opportunity for community members to ask questions or give comments to the Band Council. The Band Manager and Program Directors are required to be in attendance to answer specific questions. These questions and comments should be recorded for further consideration by Council and staff. During the question and answer period, it is often difficult not to get into very specific situations-questions like "Why didn't my daughter get post-secondary assistance?" or "Why did Joe get a new house?" However, it is not the purpose of the AGM to deal with specific and personal grievances, although it is often difficult to avoid. Another unfortunate reality of AGMs is that they often give the political opposition a chance to "grill" and try to embarrass the current Council. Nonetheless, neither of these drawbacks should deter the Council from holding and fully participating in the AGM. The overall benefit of open communication between leaders and the community that the AGM provides far outweighs these minor drawbacks. The AGM is a time to make the community aware of approved policies guiding benefits to individuals so the system may be, and may be seen to be, open and fair. That is to have a transparent system.
Often the general feedback from this session will help provide the Band Council with focus for setting priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.
The AGM may be held in October, once the community has had adequate time to review both the audit and the Annual Report. However, some communities have established other traditional times for the AGM. This may necessitate releasing the audit and Annual Report at a separate time from the AGM. In summary, it is up to the First Nation when to hold the AGM.
- Year-end program reports should be submitted to the Band Manager by May in preparation for Directors' annual review with Council.
- The remainder of the information should be compiled and drafted by August.
- The Annual Report should be made available to the community and INAC for review in September.
- The Annual Report is presented to community at the AGM in October.