Concerns and Complaints Process

PROCESS OVERVIEW

The Accounting Profession Act identifies that sometimes members of the public will have concerns about the actions and decisions of CPAs, and establishes a process for dealing with these matters.

This process is intended to:

  • Protect the public;
  •  Enforce practice standards and Rules of Professional Conduct;
  • Provide a means by which conduct complaints can be dealt with fairly and expeditiously; and
  • Resolve concerns which do not involve professional misconduct or professional misconduct in an appropriate and timely manner.

As the governing body of Saskatchewan’s CPAs, the Institute is obliged to deal with all complaints received alleging professional misconduct or professional incompetence on the part of its registrants.

If a person – whether a client or otherwise – suspects a registrant has breached the ethical, professional, or practice standards of the profession, the individual may decide to provide the Institute with a complaint which refers to the registrant and which describes the conduct in issue.

The process does not serve to compensate the complainant for any damages or losses. Instead, it ensures that unprofessional conduct by a registrant is identified, recognized and disciplined, by sanctions such as a letter of reprimand, fine, consent to a practice restriction, requirement to take educational courses, or suspension.

Likewise, if a client is concerned about a fee charged by a registrant, or if the facts disclosed do not describe a situation in which professional misconduct or professional incompetence occurred, the matter is not treated as a professional conduct issue, but is diverted to staff, who use alternative dispute resolution processes and techniques to learn more about what happened, and to try to facilitate resolution between the registrant and the member of the public.

THE FOLLOWING OUTLINES THE PRINCIPAL STAGES IN THE COMPLAINT REVIEW PROCESS GOVERNING CPAS IN SASKATCHEWAN.
 

COMMUNICATION ENCOURAGED

The Institute encourages discussion and communication among all parties before a concern or complaint is made in order to resolve or settle the matter, if possible. If communication at this early stage does not result in resolution, or if the complainant is not comfortable discussing the matters in issue with the registrant, a concern or complaint may be made to the Institute.

FEE DISPUTES

If the issue is a fee dispute and if the parties agree, the Institute is prepared to use alternative dispute resolution processes to try to facilitate the resolution the issue. More details of this process are found in “Resolving Concerns”.

RESOLVING CONCERNS

In addition to the responsibilities and authorization of the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) established in APA, the Institute has authority to establish bylaws and processes to resolve concerns which do not amount to “professional misconduct” or “professional incompetence”. Since CPA Saskatchewan’s mandate is “protection of the public”, the Institute has determined that it is necessary to provide a process in which such matters can be addressed.

When the Institute receives a concern, it may attempt to use alternative dispute resolution methods which will enable the parties to resolve the concern. It must first see if the registrant is prepared to consent to participate in such a process. If the registrant so agrees, then the Institute encourages the resolution of the concern and, with the agreement of all of the parties, appoints a mediator, conciliator or other person (facilitator) to assist in resolving the concern.

This resolution process is informal and is often used to resolve concerns that result from a failure to communicate. A facilitator assists by helping identify issues and clarify alternatives.

To encourage open communication, information shared in the concern resolution process is treated as confidential. However, if the facilitator determines the matter is substantially different from the original concern or if the matter cannot be resolved, this alternative dispute resolution process may be discontinued at the discretion of the Institute.

If the registrant fails to participate, the matter may be treated as professional misconduct. If the person who raised the concern fails to participate in the resolution process, the Institute may treat the matter as resolved.

When the parties consent to participating in an alternative dispute resolution process, the Institute monitors any agreement reached to ensure the registrant complies with the terms. Failure to comply may result in a complaint which falls within the authority of the PCC.
 

HOW TO FILE A COMPLAINT

Complaints can be started in two different ways.

First, any person may make a complaint regarding the conduct of a registrant or former registrant (if the complaint is made within 6 years of the registrant ceasing to be a practising CPA). These complaints must be submitted to the Institute in writing, and must contain a summary of the facts and list the most important concerns. Supporting documentation can be submitted at the same time or at a later date. A complaint may be made against any registrant, including firms.

To file a complaint, please contact:

Institute of Chartered Professional Accountants of Saskatchewan
Attention: Concerns/Complaints Intake
101 – 4581 Parliament Avenue
REGINA, SK S4W 0G3
complaints@cpask.ca
Please mark all communication “Private and Confidential”.

Second, any questionable conduct of a registrant that comes to the attention of the Institute may also be treated as a complaint. When this happens, the information must be brought to the attention of the Board, which then may decide to direct Institute staff to prepare a written complainant and to treat the matter as a complaint.

WHEN A COMPLAINT IS RECEIVED

Once received, Institute staff will acknowledge receipt, and will confirm that the documents received:

  • identify a registrant or former registrant; and
  • pertain to the conduct of a registrant or a former registrant.
     

PCC CHAIR AND VICE-CHAIR REVIEW

If these preconditions are met, the Chair and the Vice-Chair of the PCC will review the matter, to:

  • confirm that the PCC has jurisdiction; and
  • assess whether the documents disclose matters which may be capable of supporting a charge of professional misconduct or professional incompetence.

If the PCC Chair and Vice-Chair determine that the PCC has jurisdiction and that the complaint discloses matters which may be capable of supporting a charge of professional misconduct or professional incompetence, they will appoint one or two investigators. The number of investigators appointed, and whether the investigator is a CPA, are matters left to the discretion of the Chair and the Vice-Chair. The complainant and the registrant will be provided with notice of their decision, and the name(s) of the investigator(s). In addition, the registrant will be provided with an overview of the complaint, and notice that the scope of the investigation is not limited to the matters disclosed initially by the complainant.
 

CONDUCTING THE INVESTIGATION

The Investigators review the complaint and accompanying documentation, and communicate with both parties. The registrant is given the opportunity to provide information and comments in response. This may include a personal interview. The complainant will be contacted too, and given the opportunity to supply additional documentation and comments regarding the matter. Once again, the complainant may be interviewed.

The investigators review the materials and statements from the parties. If the investigators learn that other persons may possess information about the matters in issue, these persons will be contacted too.

Likewise, if additional matters are brought to the attention of the investigators, those matters may also be investigated. If this occurs, the registrant whose conduct is being investigated will be advised of these matters and will be given an opportunity to provide comment on it. The investigators may record any interview, providing consent is given.

At any stage during the investigation, the investigators may confer with the Chair and Vice-Chair, as a means of reviewing the scope of the investigation. This review may include discussion of the identification of additional issues, whether additional registrants should be added as respondents, and whether mediation may be an appropriate method for resolving the issues.

If the Chair and the Vice-Chair direct that additional matters may be investigated, or that other registrants should be added as respondents, notice will be provided to the impacted registrants, and they will be given the opportunity to respond and comment to the additional allegations, or new conduct matter, as the case may be.

If the Chair and Vice-Chair determine that mediation is appropriate, the registrant and the complainant will be asked if he or she is prepared to participate in mediation. If both consent to this process, the PCC will arrange for this process to occur, and will oversee the matter, including a requirement that the parties consent to any proposal for the resolution of the matter in issue. If this occurs, the report from mediation and documentation evidencing the consent of the parties will form part of the investigators’ report presented to the PCC. If the parties fail to reach an agreement, this fact is also communicated to the PCC.

After considering all material, the investigators prepare a report for presentation to the PCC. The complainant and the registrant being investigated are advised when the report has been prepared, so they know to expect a decision imminently.
 

PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE DECISION

The PCC delegates many responsibilities to its Chair and Vice-Chair, but committee meetings are held to review reports. After reviewing the investigators’ report, the PCC must make a report to the Discipline Committee. This report must contain one of the following recommendations:

  1. that the discipline committee hear and determine the formal complaint set out in the PCC’s written report; or
  2. that no further action be taken with respect to the matter under investigation, on the basis that:
    1. the matter has been resolved with the consent of the complainant and the registrant who is the subject of the investigation; or
    2. in the opinion of the PCC, no further action is warranted on the facts of the case.

It is not necessary that every PCC member be available to participate in every decision made by the PCC. Additionally, if any member of the PCC has a conflict or is of the view that he or she would not be able to objectively review the matter, he/she must recuse himself/herself.

The complainant and the registrant being investigated are notified of the PCC’s decision.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

For additional information about the Institute’s process for resolving concerns and handling complaints, or to file a complaint, please contact:

Institute of Chartered Professional Accountants of Saskatchewan
Attention: Concerns/Complaints Intake
101 – 4581 Parliament Avenue
REGINA, SK S4W 0G3
complaints@cpask.ca