Uncooperative practitioner excluded after audit failure

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April’s disciplinary orders feature a hard to pin down ACCA practitioner and a decade-old conviction that has caught up with another accountant.

Every month, Chris Cope from the Accountants National Complaint Services (ANCS) Limited also provides expert commentary and explains what lessons accountants can learn from each decision.

Below is a summary of some of the main disciplinary decisions published over the last month. You can read the stories below or click on the headlines below to jump to the corresponding story.

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Uncooperative practitioner excluded after audit failure

An ACCA practitioner has been excluded and ordered to pay costs close to £12,000 for failing on multiple occasions to provide the body with information it requested and for insufficient audit work.

Preston-based sole practitioner Gillian Hyde from Magenta Accountants Ltd was excluded from ACCA membership after a tribunal on 15 March, which she did not attend, upheld her failure to cooperate with the professional body.

Hard to pin down

Hyde’s elusive behaviour started on 18 January 2016 when the ACCA sent an email requesting a monitoring visit on March 16 2016.

But on the 14 March, Hyde requested a delay to the visit, which the professional body accepted and rescheduled the visit for 27 September. This delay was a hint of what was yet to come. An email was also sent explicitly reminding Hyde that she must have evidence of all audit work in place for the visit.

But when the senior compliance officer (SCO) arrived at Hyde’s premises they were informed by her neighbour that the sole practitioner had been in an accident.

The ACCA accepted this and rescheduled the visit for November. At the visit, Hyde said she was ill-prepared for the visit as she had been unwell. However, no evidence of this illness was produced. Hyde had been warned that if the meeting did not go ahead, she would have her practising certificate suspended.

The meeting did go ahead as planned, but the visit was aborted after Hyde admitted that she had not prepared any of the required monitoring information.  

Also, at the visit, the SCO offered Hyde the opportunity to gather together an audit file, but this request was met with silence. Hyde was given until 4pm that day to collate the information needed and to call the SCO if she had compiled the additional information.

Audit work

But 4pm went without a phone call. When the SEO returned later the same day, Hyde had found some planning notes. But Hyde’s audit work reportedly carried the hallmark deficiencies she had demonstrated previously in her response to monitoring visit requests.

The SEO asked Hyde why she had no audit file for her audit client,. She had signed the independent auditor’s report on 29 December 2015.

Instead, Hyde had a file of documentation that mainly consisted of accountancy schedules with little evidence of audit procedures performed or evidence obtained.

Elusive behaviour returns

The monitoring team referred the complaint to the ACCA’s assessment team, but when the senior investigation officer wrote to Hyde on 10 January 2017 to request further information, they received no response.

Hyde did respond on 13 February after the ACCA emailed her again on the 3 February. She explained that she had not received the SIO’s letter. But Hyde then failed to respond to the next three requests the ACCA sent on 20 February 2017, 8 March 2017 and 13 April 2017.

Hyde did sign for the April correspondence, as her signature was recorded on the Royal Mail track and trace service, but she had not contacted the ACCA since.

Decision

The fact she failed to cooperate or respond led the committee to conclude that Hyde’s behaviour was a “departure from proper professional behaviour” and that the “the public has a right to expect that a professional will respond promptly and fully to that”.

The committee withdrew Hyde’s membership, which she had obtained in September 1988 and ordered her to repay costs of £11,895.84.

Chris Cope, director of Accountants National Complaint Services Limited, commented:

A sad end to membership of 30 years’ standing, particularly as Hyde appeared to have had a clean record. It is clear that, for whatever reason, this particular practitioner no longer valued her membership of the ACCA. Nevertheless, Hyde had at least one audit client. Following exclusion, she would be unable to do any further audit work.

The history of the problem covered the period from January 2016 to March 2018 inclusive. There is a suggestion of illness and/or an accident. However, no evidence in support was ever produced.

The complaints (all of which were upheld) involved the neglect of ACCA correspondence, failing to cooperate at a monitoring visit, failing to conduct audit work in compliance with International Standards on Auditing and dishonesty. These were clearly serious allegations.

Hyde failed to attend the hearing, did not send along a legal representative and made no submission in writing.

Exclusion (for a minimum period of five years) was only inevitable due to Hyde’s failure to engage. Full cooperation, together with a good plea in mitigation, might have produced a different outcome.

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Conviction catches up with ACCA member

A conviction against an ACCA member has caught up with him some ten years later.

Aqduss Rauf was convicted of conspiracy to cause actual bodily harm on 8 April 2008. Nearly a decade later the ACCA reprimanded Rauf and charged him costs of £3,000 because he failed to disclose this information when he registered as a student in September 2013.

It was not until Rauf applied for ACCA membership in 2017 that the conviction came to light. At the disciplinary tribunal Rauf explained that at the time of registering as a student he felt no declaration was needed after reading the ACCA guidelines. He said his approach was to tick the box and “hope for the best”.

But when he applied for ACCA membership in 2017 he decided after close reading that, “to be on the safe side”, he should include his conviction.

By failing to disclose his conviction at the time of his student membership, the ACCA’s case presenter Emily Healy-Howell said Rauf had hindered the procedure that determined whether he was “fit and proper” to be a student member.

Given the amount of time that had elapsed since the criminal conviction – Rauf was 17 at the time, five years before he first applied for membership – and his remorse, the ACCA committee concluded that there was no risk of repetition.

Taking into account Rauf’s co-operation, admission and financial circumstances, the applied for costs of £5,775.76 were reduced to £3,000.   

Chris Cope, director of Accountants National Complaint Services Limited, commented:

I felt quite sorry for Rauf. The conviction dated from April 2008, a good five years before he applied to become an ACCA student. When convicted, Rauf had been a minor.

The ACCA had also charged Rauf with misconduct in regulation to the old conviction. However, the disciplinary committee decided that the complaint had not been substantiated on the basis that the conviction was now considered “spent” under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

So the issue was the non-disclosure of the conviction when Rauf registered as a student in September 2013. What a pity he did not seek advice at the time.

A costly mistake, taking into account the costs payable of £3,000 to the ACCA. Rauf was also legally represented.

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Hefty costs order for accounting procedure failures

The biggest financial penalty in this month’s ACCA disciplinary round-up goes to sole practitioner Theodore Emiantor, who must pay £17,000 in costs to the ACCA and was severely reprimanded after he signed audit reports without performing the required audit work.

Between June 2013 and May 2014 Emiantor signed three separate audit reports without his firm, Temis and co, performing the audit work.

As the principal of the firm, the committee stated that he should have applied higher standards: “He should be setting a clear example to the rest of his staff with regard to the importance of making sure that, before adding his signature to any document, particularly one as important as an audit report, he was completely satisfied as to its accuracy.”

Ironically, none of these accounts required an audit. As principal of the firm, he only discovered this at a later date.

In addition to this, in a 12-month period between January 2014 and December 2014, on 146 occasions, Emiantor transferred money from the firm’s client bank account in excess of the money held for the relevant client.

However, there had never been a deficiency on client account as Emiantor always ensured that he paid his own funds into client account in expectation of the receipt of client funds.

But errors in the opening and closing balances show that Emiantor had not maintained adequate records of the clients monies held in the client bank account, nor was there a regular reconciliation.

The disciplinary committee believed that Emiantor ran his firm’s accounts with “a substantial misunderstanding of his obligations”.

Since the SCO visit, he had seen the “error of his ways and the dangers and risks inherent in the way that he was operating his business” and has put systems into place to ensure there wasn’t a repetition.

When considering the imposition of a severe reprimand, the committee concluded: “The breaches of the Code of Ethics and Conduct had continued over a 12-month period. His lack of understanding suggested a more deep-rooted and systemic problem which was only uncovered on the monitoring visit taking place.”

Chris Cope, director of Accountants National Complaint Services Limited, commented:

Although Emiantor admitted the complaints three days before the start of the two-day hearing, only 11 days beforehand, a defence had been lodged denying complaints two and three and admitting complaint one.

Had the complaints been admitted at an earlier date, the costs incurred by the ACCA (£19,803) would undoubtedly have been less. Nevertheless, these were reduced by nearly £3,000 to £17,000, for which Emiantor should be grateful to his barrister.

The committee heard from two character witnesses who had attested to Emiantor’s integrity and abilities. Whereas, written references are always helpful in serious cases, the attendance of character witnesses should always be considered. Cooperation throughout the investigation, the expression of contrition and sufficient insight (as demonstrated here) are factors which will contribute to a satisfactory outcome.

Find out more about Chris Cope and the Accountants National Complaint Services Limited here.  

About Richard Hattersley

Richard Hattersley

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

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By Tosie
24th Apr 2018 12:40

With respect to Gillian Hyde it is clear that she is in some sort of mental breakdown. In particular after 30 years clean record. This should have been considered on initial visits and less pressure put on her e.g. produce by 4pm. Anybody who has suffered stress knows the worst thing anybody can say is hurry up with this info. As for poor Rauf it should have been taken into account that he was trying to put the record straight.

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By B.R.
25th Apr 2018 09:16

The pressures on a small practitioner are immense, and a breakdown may be only a monitoring visit away! ACCA will be able to provide guidance; however, the practitioner should make contact with a fellow practitioner in their area and seek practical help if they know that their files and procedures are falling short. ACCA is a family, and family pull together when needed.

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