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On 28 June 2016 a Disciplinary Committee of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (“CIPFA”) heard allegations against Mr Lakhbir Singh Jaspal.
Mr Jaspal had resigned from the Institute in May 2016 whilst he was the subject of regulatory action. The proceedings had continued against him as a former member.
Mr Jaspal did not attend the Disciplinary Committee hearing and was not represented in his absence. He had previously been in communication with CIPFA about the issues concerned in his case.
Between 2001 and 2015 Mr Jaspal held a series of senior roles at the Accord Group (“Accord”), including Director of Finance, Director of Resources and later Deputy Chief Executive. Accord, a part-publicly funded organisation, provides housing and support services to those in need.
In May 2015, Accord’s Chief Executive had sight of two invoices submitted to them for payment, totalling around £68,000. The invoices purported to be for consultancy services provided by a company in 2014/2015. The Chief Executive did not recognise the name of the invoicing company and carried out enquires which revealed that Mr Jaspal was a director of that company.
An investigation was then undertaken into the services the company had been providing, if any, and what invoices had been submitted for payment on its behalf to Accord. It transpired that a further six invoices totalling £325,944 had been submitted by the company to Accord and paid during August 2011 to September 2012. The invoiced services had not in fact been provided by Mr Jaspal’s company at all. When questioned about the matter by Accord, Mr Jaspal admitted to the fraud and said that he would pay all of the monies back, which he subsequently did.
The Committee found that Mr Jaspal had pleaded guilty to and was convicted of eight counts of Fraud by Abuse of Position and was sentenced to a total of three years imprisonment. The fraud had involved Mr Jaspal acting dishonestly in creating forged invoices in his company’s name addressed to Accord for services that had not been provided and his approving them for payment by Accord.
The Committee found that Mr Jaspal had failed to act in accordance with the CIPFA Standard of Professional Practice on Ethics. By committing a significant crime of dishonesty over a protracted period of time he had breached the fundamental principles of integrity and professional behaviour.
The Committee found that Mr Jaspal, by acting in breach of the Standard of Professional Practice on Ethics, was in breach of CIPFA’s Bye-Law 23(b).
Mr Jaspal was also found to be in breach of Bye-Law 23(d). He had acted in a manner which had brought, or was likely to bring, discredit on himself, his employer, the Institute or the profession of accountancy and he had been convicted of a criminal offence for which a sentence of three year’s imprisonment had been imposed.
The Disciplinary Committee determined to expel Mr Jaspal from the Institute.
The Committee in reaching this decision took into account the level of sophistication of the fraud, that it was a gross abuse of trust and that Mr Jaspal had kept the payments at a level that would go undetected. He had used his position in the company to authorise the payments. Additionally the offences were committed over a protracted period of time, had a serious impact on Accord and involved large sums of money which were used by Mr Jaspal to fund his lifestyle. The Committee also took account of Mr Jaspal’s personal mitigation, his previous good character and his character references. It took into consideration that Mr Jaspal had repaid the sums involved and had shown some limited insight and remorse. In light of all of these factors expulsion was a proportionate and appropriate sanction.
Given Mr Jaspal’s status as a former Member, the effect of the sanction is that re-admittance can only be sought in accordance with the Disciplinary Regulations.
The Committee imposed a costs order against Mr Jaspal.
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