On 19 October 2022 a Disciplinary Committee of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (“CIPFA”) heard allegations against CIPFA Registered Student Mr Farah Said.
Disciplinary Committee Attendance
Mr Said did not attend his hearing and was not represented in his absence. He had made submissions in writing in advance of the hearing.
The Disciplinary Committee Hearing
Mr Said became a CIPFA Registered Student on or about 25 February 2020.
On 3 March 2021 Mr Said undertook CIPFA’s International Public Financial Management Audit and Assurance (IPFM AA) examination. He undertook the examination on-line, at his workplace, with invigilation being undertaken by a local invigilator who was present during the examination.
The examination was conducted in accordance with CIPFA’s Assessment Regulations, which prohibit access to unauthorised materials during a CIPFA examination.
When Mr Said’s examination script was marked the examiner found there were a number of similarities, and in places identical matches, between parts of his examination answers and passages in the IPFM AA course materials and materials available on various accountancy websites.
In his written submissions Mr Said stated that he had memorised some parts of the course materials as he had some past and present experience in the audit field and gave more time to read the modules. He stated that at the time of the examination he was “unaware and un-experienced” with CIPFA’s rules and regulations and Bye-Laws but that he was now fully aware and would respect and give more consideration to the CIPFA Code of Ethics.
The Committee did not find Mr Said’s explanation credible given the large amount of replication of materials from different sources. It identified various examples of identical or similar script including an example where the use of a hyphen exactly replicated material from a website. Mr Said had not claimed to have memorised any of the website pages which had been copied and the Committee did not find it credible that he could have done so with such accuracy.
The Committee considered that it was more likely that Mr Said discreetly, presumably out of sight of the invigilator, copied texts from different websites and the workbook into his answers, something it would have been possible for him to do in the circumstances of his examination.
The Committee was satisfied that Mr Said knew that he was cheating and that his actions would be regarding as being dishonest by the standards of a reasonable honest person. Accordingly, the Committee found Mr Said’s actions to be dishonest. It also found that Mr Said’s conduct lacked integrity and gave him an unfair advantage over his peers.
The Disciplinary Committee’s findings on breach of the Institute’s Bye-Laws
The Committee found that Mr Said’s actions brought, or were likely to bring, discredit on himself, the Institute and the profession of accountancy (Bye-Law 23(d)).
His conduct was a breach of the Institute’s Code of Ethics’ fundamental principles of integrity and professional behaviour and affected prejudicially the status, reputation or welfare of CIPFA (Bye-Law 23(b) and (c)). It amounted to misconduct.
Sanction and relevant considerations
The Disciplinary Committee directed that Mr Said be expelled from the Institute.
The Committee acknowledged that a finding of dishonesty is always a very serious matter in a professional context. Mr Said had, in its view, chosen deliberately to cheat and there was no material before the committee which could reassure it that he would not repeat his actions. His deliberate cheating and lack of insight, remorse or remediation made it fundamentally incompatible for him to remain on the student register. Expulsion was the appropriate and proportionate sanction.
In reaching its decision the Committee took account of relevant aggravating factors; that by cheating Mr Said had breached the trust placed in him by CIPFA, and, that his actions had the potential seriously to undermine the integrity of the CIPFA examination process.
The Committee was mindful that Mr Said’s engagement with the CIPFA regulatory process had been limited so the committee had no evidence on which to form a judgement regarding insight, remorse and remediation.
The Committee also took into account various mitigating factors; Mr Said’s membership of CIPFA had been brief but he had no previous disciplinary findings, and, he had engaged, albeit partially, in the regulatory process.
The Committee imposed a costs order against Mr Said.
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