- CA ANZ receives about 300-350 complaints every year – almost one a day.
- Most complaints are about timeliness and competency of work, but there are also more serious allegations involving fraud.
- CAs who are the subject of a complaint should not panic and remember that the Professional Conduct team wants to hear both sides of the story.
By Joshua Gliddon
It might surprise many chartered accountants that CA ANZ receives between 300 to 350 complaints about members every year – that’s almost one a day.
Rebecca Stickney, leader of CA ANZ’s Professional Conduct team in New Zealand, says the most common complaints levelled against members relate to timeliness, competency or the quality of the work being carried out.
“We also get complaints about breaches of confidentiality, poor communication and general professional behaviour matters,” says Stickney on the Acuity podcast.
“We also look at ethics when it comes to billing and conflict of interest. Sadly, we also get complaints involving allegations of dishonesty or a failure to act with honesty and integrity.”
Which CAs attract the most complaints?
Most of the complaints against members come from their clients, Stickney says. About 80% of complaints are against male CA ANZ members aged 40-70 years.
This reflects the fact that most of those complained about are in public practice and may not have kept up with their training or changes in the profession.
But occasionally a CA’s behaviour is deliberately deceptive.
Stickney gives the example of a CA who was subject to a complaint from two of their clients who felt they had not received the tax refund they were entitled to. After an investigation, it turned out that they were only paying fees of $50 per year. So the investigative team looked into whether fees were coming out of the tax refund.
A team of forensic accountants was assembled, and it was discovered that the complainants were not the only clients involved.
The Serious Fraud Office subsequently discovered that there was over $1 million in funds missing, and 250 clients affected. The member was struck off and is now serving a custodial sentence.
What happens if you are complained about?
There are ample resources available to CAs who are the subject of a complaint, says Stickney, including the CA ANZ website, as well as the CA Advisory Group, a panel of experienced CAs who can provide ethical support and a sounding board while the CA is going through the complaint process.
“If you receive a complaint, the first thing is not to panic. Take a breath and read the complaint,” she says.
“But the really important thing is that we want both sides of the story. The bulk of complaints are either found to not warrant further action or result in lower-level sanctions.”
Picture: Rebecca Stickney, leader of CA ANZ’s Professional Conduct team in New Zealand.
“The really important thing is that we want both sides of the story. The bulk of complaints are either found to not warrant further action or result in lower-level sanctions.”
Dealing with a complaint
Learn more about what happens when client disputes are escalated to CA ANZ as a formal complaint.Read more
Catch up on the Acuity podcast
Hear from the experts as they tackle the big issues, from climate risk to insolvency, forensic accounting and more.Listen to more podcasts