ACS members vote in favour of organisational structure change

The approval to transition the Australian Computer Society into being a company limited by guarantee was agreed on by 75% of its members.

Australian Computer Society (ACS) members have voted in favour of the not-for-profit organisation's proposal to change the legal structure of the organisation from an incorporated association to a company limited by guarantee.

ACS claimed that the change was approved by 75% of eligible voting members during the organisation's special general meeting held on Friday.

As part of the overhaul, ACS said the organisation would change its name to Australian Computer Society Limited and replace existing rules and objects of the society with a new constitution under the Corporations Act.

ACS president Yohan Ramasundara assured that despite the change, ACS would remain a not-for-profit membership based professional body.

"Our core focus is on professional standards setting through the development and maintenance of core bodies of knowledge, certification and accreditation programs, and professional education," he said.

Ramasundara added under the new constitution, only members of the ACS professional group would be eligible for consideration on the future board of directors, and that its membership would be limited to individuals rather than companies.

ACS CEO Andrew Johnson previously told ZDNet the unanimous decision by the management committee to put forward the proposal was part of the ACS' five-year strategy. He said one of the sections within the strategy highlighted "the need for ACS to review its corporate form and governance structures, and to streamline its decision-making processes to enable it to be agile in the future, in order to more effectively achieve its objects and deliver its services".

Johnson said the CLG structure is the most common form of incorporating a national membership association under Commonwealth law, which means even under the structure change, ACS would remain as a membership body.  

"Member centricity has been one of the guiding principles of change," he said at the time.

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However, not all ACS members are convinced the change will be beneficial. ACS fellow and former director and visiting professor in Computer Science at the Australian National University Roger Clarke previously labelled the change as a "hijack".

Clarke said the proposal is intended by the ACS executives to be a "coup de grace", and that they have been acting in a "highly aggressive, controlling, and competitive manner".

"The priorities of the management committee and some branch executive committees have swung a long distance away from member services and much more towards commercial activities. As a result, the society's core values have been undermined," he told ZDNet.

But Clarke is not alone. Following a piece published by Dr Ian Oppermann, who is the NSW government Chief Data Scientist, CEO of the NSW Data Analytics Centre, and vice president of Academic Boards at ACS, about why he would vote yes on the governance changes on the ACS website, comments from various members also indicated their disapproval.

For instance, one Frank Liebeskind said that while he appreciates the new look ACS, he was "disappointed with the lack of reasons for moving to the new corporate status".

"I think the ACS has made quantum leaps in relevance in the past few years, and I'm sure the proposed changes are the correct next step, but a bit more detail would be good for us 'old timers' who helped create the ACS in the first place (in the distant past)," he wrote.

Similarly, a John Marquet commented saying the governance proposal was "in many ways indistinguishable from 'privatisation by stealth', as has occurred with other historic de-mutualisations".

"I'm in favour of the ACS thinking forward and acting nationally, and acquiring the resources to do so. The entire Information Sciences Stack in Australia really needs professional representation (after enduring the tender mercies of Ministers Alston and Coonan," he continued.

"However, I do not like the idea of a future ACS Nominations Committee appointed by a future ACS Board (of elected Nominees?), especially in a forthcoming era of ubiquitous digital communications."