Disciplinary: ACCA student lied to boss about qualification

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An accounting trainee has been thrown off the ACCA’s student register after lying to his employer that he passed all his ACCA exams when he had actually failed.

Former ACCA student Paul Barrett has expressed “deep shame” and apologised for letting down the standards of the profession in a disciplinary tribunal where he was removed from the student register.

The ACCA disciplinary tribunal heard how Barrett falsified his exam results so it looked as if he had successfully completed 14 out of 14 exams when he had only passed 13.

A monitoring visit from an ACCA compliance officer in September 2018 unravelled Barrett’s four years’ long pretence, after he handed the officer an altered printout of his results and claimed that he was an ACCA affiliate.

The sole proprietor of the firm was left ‘surprised’ when the ACCA informed him that his employee was actually still a student and not an affiliate. Shortly after, Barrett admitted to his boss of 12 years that he had lied about passing the ACCA exams.

Wrongly read exam results

In a letter to the ACCA compliance officer, Barrett claimed he wrongly read his exam results as a pass and things snowballed from there. “My exam result was listed next to previous exams in the email,” he wrote. “I was extremely relieved and proceeded to tell my family, close friends and [my manager].”

But it wasn’t until a week later when he logged on to his MyACCA account to find out what he needed to do next to become a member that he discovered that his exam results still said 13 out of 14 on his progress.

Barrett said the P7 paper he took was marked ‘fail’ and was well below 50. “I was alarmed and confused and then rechecked my email,” he continued in the letter. “It read as a fail, I was looking at the wrong line the first time round.’”

So when the meeting with the ACCA compliance officer approached, he did what he described as the “worst thing” he has ever done: he downloaded the report and typed over the three with a four. “I did it because I was ashamed of not telling him these past four years,” he confessed.

Acted dishonestly

Barrett fully accepted that his actions were dishonest and said his plan had been to pass the June 2014 exam. But after struggling to find the time to study, he failed both the June and December 2014 exam, which left him wrestling with a mistake that he admitted not having the courage to come clean about.

The disciplinary tribunal decided that Barratt’s actions amounted to misconduct and the fact that he had tried to cover up his dishonesty made his conduct “fundamentally incompatible” with the ACCA.

The ACCA concluded that Barrett should be removed from the student register and ordered that he pay costs in the sum of £3,500.

If you are presently subject to a complaint, you can call the Accountants National Complaint Services Limited​ for advice (01769 581581) or visit their website.

About Richard Hattersley

Richard Hattersley

Richard is AccountingWEB's Practice Editor. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.


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By Jholm
01st Aug 2019 17:22

Probably wouldn't have been cut out for the profession if he 'read the wrong line'....

Thanks (3)
to Jholm
02nd Aug 2019 10:16

I would have thought that would have made him ideally suited to be an audit partner at one of the larger firms!

Thanks (15)
By mkowl
to Ben Alligin
02nd Aug 2019 10:52

Ben Alligin wrote:

I would have thought that would have made him ideally suited to be an audit partner at one of the larger firms!


Thanks (0)
02nd Aug 2019 12:07

I doubt this is unusual, I few people I worked with lied about passing, but managed to catchup in the next couple of sittings.

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to SouthCoastAcc
02nd Aug 2019 12:22

When I went to get my training signed off I was amazed at the number of "qualifieds" I had worked with who actually weren't, one was even a partner in a practice. Always get their membership number and call the relevant body.

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to Richard Grant
05th Aug 2019 11:44

Even when I go for interviews I am surprised how many Financial directors or Financial Managers, who say they are qualified and state on linkedin, are not qualified. There are alot of accountant practices, and organisations where people lie about the accounting qualifications but do get away with it.

Why don't employers, check the registration number like Robert Half and contact the relevant body? People need to be more ruthless and check up.

Does anyone ever check the ones doing ACA who fiddle tax? ACCA does seem to catch a lot over the years.

Thanks (0)
02nd Aug 2019 12:18

The deception lasted 4 years, He could have re done the entire qualification in that time or even had a go at CIMA and CIOT.

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By Dandan
02nd Aug 2019 13:36

This one is quite a sad case. After all , he had passed 13 exams already. If only he could have been honest then his life would not have taken such a bad turn.

I very much doubt that he would lose his job. His sole practitioner boss must know him pretty well by now and only feel pity for him and his weakness.

The ACCA system does not give much credibility to anyone who has completed all exams but not applied for membership yet. Being an "Affiliate" means nothing . It is only when you become a member that you count . Not surprisingly, there are many people out there who use the word "affiliate" loosely.

I have seen hundreds of CVs where applicants claim to be qualified or part-qualified ACCA. In their minds, passing a few exams is a form of qualification.

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By ekhesa
02nd Aug 2019 19:42

One/ACCA need only to visit a website called LinkedIn and see how many people use the designation ACCA. When you check or open to see the date of completion that's when you realize they are still studying. The association should do more to ensure that these form of claim and deceit is dealt with. Otherwise people are going to have a conception and perception that the association allows this.

Thanks (3)
By Tickers
06th Aug 2019 20:32

Doesn't matter, he can still call himself an accountant, file tax returns and basically do what he was doing previously and undercut his previous employer. He'll get the support of half the punters on here who say how much better they are than real accountants but life got in the way so they couldn't complete their exams but get to call themselves accountants anyway. You know, just like all the legal admins who call themselves solicitors and all the quacks who get to call themselves doctors because they couldn't get through medical school, oh wait...

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