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  • Most Members will not be faced with the prospect of having a complaint lodged against them but when it does happen ICAS recognises that it can be a daunting experience. Many complaints could, however, be avoided if the Member had addressed matters at an early stage and adopted a co-operative approach when dealing with the complainer and with ICAS. You may wish to contact the Investigations Department for a discussion if you consider it likely that a complaint may be lodged against you.

    Dealing with a complaint

    In terms of the Investigation Regulations, if a Member Firm receives a complaint from a client or former client concerning any services it has provided or failed to provide then it is the responsibility of the firm to ensure that the matter is investigated by a principal. If the complainer remains dissatisfied at the conclusion of the investigation then the complainer should be informed in writing of his right to bring his complaint to the attention of ICAS.

    Conciliation

    There will be circumstances where it is possible for a Member and a Complainer to resolve a disagreement without the need for ICAS to carry out a formal investigation of a complaint.

    ICAS refers to complaints resolved in this manner as having been ‘conciliated’, with the formal procedure for reaching a resolution referred to as the ‘Conciliation Protocols’.

    Visit the conciliation guidance section for further information.

    Complaints Process

    Full information for members on the ICAS complaints process may be found in the following helpsheets: 

    In addition Members may find further information in the Complaints Information for Members of the Public section. 

    Failure to Respond

    The Investigation Committee is increasingly encountering situations where Members have failed to respond to ICAS correspondence, either in relation to a complaint or prior to a referral being made by another regulatory committee. The ICAS Rules and Investigation Regulations require Members, CA Student Members, Affiliates and Firms to co-operate with the Committee and its Case Officers in relation to any investigation and to respond to all professional correspondence in a prompt and adequate manner. In particular, Members are under an obligation to comply with requests for information made by ICAS which relate to regulatory functions and responsibilities. The information is requested so that ICAS can fulfill its obligations as a regulatory body.

    The Investigation Committee views seriously any failure to respond which affects ICAS’ ability to comply with its obligations as a regulatory body, particularly as this failure undermines the system of self-regulation that exists within the accountancy profession. The Investigation Committee has now adopted a robust approach to dealing with such cases. 

    Sanctions Guidance

    For complaints which are determined from 1 January 2015 onwards, the Investigation Committee will make reference to its sanctions guidance when assessing the appropriate level of penalty.

    This document sets out the process which the Investigation Committee will follow when making a decision. It also includes guidance on the level of sanction which may be appropriate for certain offences; together with general information on orders and financial penalties.

    We recommend that this document is carefully considered if a complaint is referred to the Investigation Committee.

    Common Sanctions Guidance for Insolvency Complaints

    The professional bodies which authorise Insolvency Practitioners in Great Britain have agreed on common sanctions guidance for insolvency-related complaints.  This guidance - which was introduced on 5 June 2013 - will have to be considered by the ICAS Investigation Committee and Discipline Appeal Tribunals when determining an appropriate sanction against an Insolvency Practitioner.

    The guidance is available at:

    Public interest complaints

    The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) acts as an independent disciplinary body for accountants, accountancy firms and actuaries in the UK in relation to public interest cases. The arrangements for the investigation and discipline of public interest complaints are governed by the FRC Disciplinary Scheme.

    ICAS is required to be part of the Scheme by virtue of the Companies Act 2006.

    Under the Scheme, a Participant Body which has a Member of Firm under investigation is responsible for the costs of the investigation and, if appropriate, the costs associated with the hearing of a formal complaint before a Discipline Tribunal. 

    Financial Issues Sub-Committee 

    At the onset of the financial crisis, ICAS established a Financial Issues Sub-Committee to undertake initial assessments of complaints or concerns arising from the conduct or competence of Members and Firms engaged in the banking and financial services sectors. 

    The Sub-Committee is comprised of CA and public interest members of the Investigation Committee and meets regularly to discuss emerging issues. Where there are clear and substantiated grounds to indicate a breach of rules, regulations, professional or ethical standards, the Sub-Committee will ensure there is a formal investigation to assess whether a Member or Firm is liable to disciplinary action.  

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