On 17 October 2022 a Disciplinary Committee of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (“CIPFA”) heard allegations against CIPFA Registered Student Mr Nathaniel Coker.
Disciplinary Committee Attendance
Mr Coker attended the hearing without a representative. He had made admissions in writing in
advance of the hearing.
The Disciplinary Committee Hearing
Mr Coker became a CIPFA Registered Student in or about November 2017.
On 10 June 2021 Mr Coker undertook CIPFA’s Strategic Public Finance (SPF) examination. He undertook the examination on-line with invigilation being undertaken by CIPFA’s remote invigilator.
The examination was conducted in accordance with CIPFA’s Assessment Regulations, which prohibit access to unauthorised materials during a CIPFA examination.
When Mr Coker’s examination script was marked the examiner had concerns that there were a number of similarities, and in places identical matches, between parts of his examination answers and passages in the SPF course materials.
At his hearing Mr Coker admitted accessing unauthorised materials during the SPF examination. He stated that he had used a desk with drawers for his examination in which his course materials had been stored and that he had accessed those materials throughout his examination. His admission was accepted by the Committee.
Mr Coker contended that he had not proposed to cheat and that his actions in doing so were not planned.
The Committee noted that some time before the examination commenced Mr Coker appeared to show the invigilator that he had nothing on his desk but failed to tell or show the invigilator that the desk had drawers and the relevant examination course materials were in those drawers. A few minutes before the examination started Mr Coker could be heard taking something out of a drawer which he put in front of himself. After the examination commenced, he put that material in front of himself and flicked though it. He moved it to the side and in front of him whilst typing and looking down at it. He concealed the workbooks from the invigilator, they being visible only as a reflection in his glasses.
In light of all of the evidence the Committee was satisfied that Mr Coker knew that he was cheating. It found his actions were dishonest and that his dishonesty had a degree of premeditation.
Having cheated in his exam, Mr Coker had not acted in accordance with the CIPFA’s Assessment Regulations or with honesty and integrity. He had sought to obtain an unfair advantage over other exam candidates.
The Disciplinary Committee’s findings on breach of the Institute’s Bye-Laws
The Committee found that Mr Coker’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 Coker be suspended from the Institute for a period of nine months.
In reaching its decision the Committee took account of relevant aggravating factors; that Mr Coker’s actions were premeditated, that he was not an inexperienced or new student, and, that he had taken a number of CIPFA examinations before, so was well aware of the relevant regulations and process.
The Committee also took into account various mitigating factors; Mr Coker was employed and a joint breadwinner for his family, that his actions harmed himself, and, that it considered his actions were out of character, an isolated incident representing his first breach of the CIPFA regulations. It also took account of various pressures and difficulties that Mr Coker faced during lockdown as well as his engagement and co-operation with the regulatory process and early admissions. Mr Coker demonstrated genuine remorse and some insight and had sought professional assistance to manage pressures in the future. The Committee was of the view that his misconduct was unlikely to be repeated given the positive steps taken by him to remediate his actions.
The Committee imposed a costs order against Mr Coker.
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