On 29 September 2022 a Disciplinary Committee of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (“CIPFA”) heard allegations against CIPFA Registered Student Mr Paul Gitau.
Mr Gitau attended the hearing in person and was not represented. He had made various written responses to the allegations prior to the hearing including admitting misconduct. He denied acting dishonestly.
Mr Gitau became a CIPFA Registered Student in February 2016.
On 2 March 2021 Mr Gitau sat CIPFA’s Strategic Case Study examination on-line at his workplace with a local invigilator who was in attendance 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 Gitau’s examination script was marked, the markers found the script to include such large quantities of text that they concluded it was not possible that it could have been produced during the examination. It appeared that Mr Gitau had attached to his script a summary of the case study that he had prepared since receipt of the examination advance materials.
The Committee noted Mr Gitau’s explanation of events. He stated that he had sat the examination on his own computer which also contained the file which comprised his summary of the advance materials concerning the Strategic Case Study being examined. As part of his answer to the final question Mr Gitau opened the file and attached his summary of the advance materials. He advised the committee that this was not to cheat but to “share” it with the examiner in the hopes that it would be used in the future. He said that he had marked this part with the words “not to be marked, summary notes only”, or words to that effect, and that it should not have been regarded as part of his answer to the last question.
The Committee considered Mr Gitau’s explanation to be fanciful and untrue. It did not find on the examination script the words Mr Gitau stated he added to the last part. Nor did it find any indication on the script that the last part should not have been regarded as part of his final answer and so not marked.
The Committee had regard to the fact that, at the time of taking the examination, Mr Gitau had been a CIPFA student for some five years and had sat many CIPFA examinations, including two previous attempts at the Strategic Case Study examination. It was satisfied that he would have been aware of the examination regulations and the absolute prohibition against accessing unauthorised materials during an examination. It considered that Mr Gitau was aware he should not have acted as he did and was breaching examination regulations. It was satisfied there was no innocent explanation for Mr Gitau’s actions. His intention was to gain an unfair advantage over other students. His actions would be regarded as dishonest by the standards of reasonable honest people. Dishonesty was found proven by the Committee.
The Committee found that Mr Gitau’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.
The Disciplinary Committee directed that Mr Gitau be suspended from the Institute for a period of eight months.
The Committee found that, although Mr Gitau’s actions were dishonest, which is serious, there was no premeditation and the conduct had not been repeated. It was not the worst case of student cheating and dishonesty. In all of the circumstances, the Committee did not consider that Mr Gitau’s misconduct made it fundamentally incompatible for him to remain on the student register.
In reaching its decision, the Committee took account of mitigating factors; Mr Gitau is employed and the breadwinner for himself and others, his misconduct was out of character and his first breach of CIPFA’s regulations, he had hurt himself by his actions, and, he had engaged with the regulatory process and made early admissions. It found Mr Gitau had demonstrated genuine remorse, and some insight, and his misconduct was unlikely to be repeated.
The Committee also took into account relevant aggravating factors; Mr Gitau was not an
inexperienced or new student but a longstanding member of the accountancy profession, he had been a CIPFA member for five years, and, he had taken many CIPFA examinations before, this being his third attempt at this examination.
The Committee also imposed a costs order against Mr Gitau.
For media enquiries contact the CIPFA press office at T: +44 (0)20 7543 5885 E: Mark.Davey@cipfa.org
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