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On the 15 December 2010 the Disciplinary Committee of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (“CIPFA”) heard allegations against Mr Michael Wilkinson (working as a Business Manager at a boys’ school in Surrey.)
Mr Wilkinson had resigned from the Institute in July 2010, whilst he was the subject of regulatory action. The proceedings had continued against him in his capacity as a former member.
Mr Wilkinson did not attend the Disciplinary Committee hearing and was not represented in his absence. He had previously communicated with CIPFA about the issues concerned in his case and these communications were considered by the Disciplinary Committee.
CONTINUATION OF PROCEEDINGS
The Committee determined that the length of time since Mr Wilkinson ceased to be a member was not such that it would be inappropriate to continue with the disciplinary proceedings.
The facts in this case concern Mr Wilkinson’s failure to participate in CIPFA’s mandatory Continuing Professional Development Scheme for the years 2008 and 2009.
Although CIPFA had initially operated a voluntary CPD Scheme, participation in its CPD Scheme later became a mandatory requirement for all of its members in accordance with CIPFA’s Standard of Professional Practice for CPD and Guidelines for CPD.
CIPFA introduced its mandatory CPD Scheme in 2003 – with member participation being phased in from January 2005 to January 2007. Any member not registered onto the mandatory CPD Scheme (“the CPD Scheme”) by December 2007 was deemed registered from that date.
Guidance about the CPD Scheme, including how to register onto it, participate in it and confirm participation, was available to members from 2004 onwards. In essence, the CPD Scheme required members to (i) undertake 120 hours of CPD activity over a three year period with a minimum of 20 hours of verifiable activities within any one year and (ii) to confirm participation on an annual basis.
Members were able to seek exemption from participation, suspension of the requirement to participate or a reduction in the hours required to comply with the Scheme in defined circumstances (e.g. retirement, career break etc). Each application received by CIPFA was considered on an individual basis and was subject to annual review.
Mr Wilkinson did not register with the CPD Scheme in January 2007, as required by the phased introduction, so was deemed to be registered and required to participate from January 2008. His position and the requirement for him to participate were advised to him by CIPFA.
Despite extensive correspondence between Mr Wilkinson and the Institute between 2008 and early 2010 - the Institute seeking to encourage him to participate - Mr Wilkinson failed to participate in, or seek an exemption from the requirements of the CPD Scheme for the years 2008 and 2009.
In various communications with CIPFA Mr Wilkinson indicated his deliberate intention not to participate in the CPD Scheme. He referred to CPD as pointless and threatened to withhold his membership subscription.
In August 2009, in consequence of CIPFA being made aware of Mr Wilkinson’s part time working, it agreed to reduce the minimum CPD hours requirement of the CPD Scheme by 40%. Nonetheless, Mr Wilkinson failed to comply with the CPD Scheme.
BREACH OF PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS
By not participating in the CPD Scheme Mr Wilkinson was found to be in breach of CIPFA Bye-Law 23(b) - in that he had failed to comply with the requirements of the Standard of Professional Practice for CPD.
Mr Wilkinson was also found to be in breach of CIPFA Bye-Law 23(c) - in that he had prejudicially affected the status, reputation and welfare of the Institute. The regard the public is entitled to have for a professional accountancy qualification is dependent on members abiding by rules which require them to keep their knowledge and skills up to date. Mr Wilkinson’s failure and unwillingness to undertake mandatory CPD undermined the respect of the public and fellow professionals for the Institute which sought to maintain its reputation, and the reputation of the accountancy profession, by regulating its members in accordance with ethical, technical and professional standards designed to maintain public confidence in the profession.
By his actions, Mr Wilkinson was also found to be in breach of Bye-Law 23(d). He had acted in manner likely to bring discredit on himself, his employer, the Institute and the profession of accountancy by his demonstrated quite deliberate intention not to comply with the requirements of the Standard of Professional Practice for CPD and by conducting himself in a manner which was wholly unacceptable and unprofessional. He was a member of CIPFA at all relevant times but declined to abide by its rules and threatened to withhold his subscription pending resolution of the matter. Whilst he may have disagreed with the concept of CPD the manner in which he did so was discreditable.
SANCTION AND RELEVANT CONSIDERATIONS
The Disciplinary Committee determined to expel Mr Wilkinson from the Institute. It took into account that Mr Wilkinson did not agree with CPD (which CIPFA regarded as essential), that even when every effort was made to demonstrate the importance of his registering or seeking an exemption there was no indication that he was prepared to do so and that he showed a blatant disregard for the processes of the Institute. His actions were a serious breach of the Bye-Laws that caused serious harm to the Institute. The evidence demonstrated a fundamental incompatibility with membership of the Institute.
Given Mr Wilkinson’s status as a former member, the effect of the sanction is that re-admittance can only be sought in accordance with procedures set down in the Institute’s Disciplinary Regulations.
Contact: Lindsay Machin / Chloe Forbes
CIPFA Press Office
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