James George, president of the Cayman Islands Society of Professional Accountants, outlines the less well known complaints, investigation and disciplinary process of the organisation.
The Cayman Islands Society of Professional Accountants is comprised of over 800 members. In a country that has one of the highest number of accountants per capita in the world, CISPA is responsible for licensing all individual practitioners that are engaged in public practice in the Cayman Islands. The remaining members are predominantly accountants not engaged in public practice who are also able but not mandated to join the Society.
CISPA’s role and objectives
CISPA was set up to, among other things, promote and protect the welfare and interest of the Society and the accounting profession, maintain the highest standards of professional etiquette and ethics among its members and encourage the observance of such standards among non-members. It is also expected to associate with any regional or international counterparts to further the interests of the profession.
Since the Public Accountants Law came into force in 2007, CISPA has had formal investigation and disciplinary powers with respect to all its members. There are procedures in place to discharge these powers and one way in which these procedures may commence is the receipt of a complaint against a member. To ensure this is reflective of the high standards of conduct amongst the profession it formalised the procedure for bringing a complaint.
As an associate member of the International Federation of Accountants there are certain obligations to be met and criteria for an appropriate complaints and investigation and discipline process.
It is sections 18 and 19 of the Public Accountants Law that provide for the receipt and referral of complaints to council, which may then refer the matter to the investigation committee.
The grounds on which a complaint may be made against a member of CISPA set out in the Law are:
– Misconduct, dishonesty or incompetence in the performance of his or her professional duties
– Breach of the standards of professional conduct of his or her institute
– Making any statement which to his or her knowledge is false in any material particular or has made any other misleading or fraudulent representation (in order to procure registration as member or student, or obtain a licence)
– Where member has been convicted of a criminal offence based upon which the complainant considers the person unfit to be a member, student or practitioner member, or
– Where member has brought the Society into disrepute.
Providing the complaint relates to one of the above grounds and is not frivolous or vexatious then it will be referred to investigation.
Frivolous or vexatious
While in practice it is expected that complaints would be submitted by clients of members or regulatory bodies and other Institutes, in theory all persons are able to make a complaint. However, the capacity or interests of the persons making the complaint and/or relationship to the member complained of may be relevant when considering whether the complaint is frivolous or vexatious. Factors that may indicate or influence the assessment of the complaint are:
– Complainant is a competitor
– Complainant is evidently aggrieved with respect to a separate or previous event not related to matters in section 18 of the Law
– Complainant has made numerous frivolous or vexatious complaints in the past or publicly expressed criticism of other unrelated persons, groups or events
-Complainant has expressed personal insults, shown aggression or lack of respect for the complaints process, CISPA or its representatives
CISPA’s procedure acts as a precursor to the investigative and disciplinary procedures of CISPA that aim to bring to account those members who fail to maintain professional standards.
Monitoring unlicensed business
A complaint may reveal to CISPA that a person is carrying on public practice in the Cayman Islands without a licence. In this event, the matter is handled by a different process under the oversight of the membership registration and licensing committee.
In addition, it was also realised that complaints may be received about persons that are not members or were not members at the time of the act complained about. Under the Law, presently there are no direct powers for CISPA to sanction non-members. However since the person may be representing the accounting profession and perhaps using the designation of another institute, then CISPA may refer such cases to other institutes. Furthermore, CISPA plans to enhance and expand relations with other institutes according to its objects and that of IFAC.
Complaints can only be submitted using the complaint form which can be accessed from the CISPA website www.cispa.ky. Other enquiries can be addressed directly to the CISPA Liaison Officer on 949-1345 ext 128 .