Some of our Panel members have shared their experience of sitting on hearings for the ACCA, and what motivates them to do so. We hope this gives you a flavour of what the role will entail.

  • Disciplinary Assessors

    Helen Kavanagh – Disciplinary Assessor

    How did I get involved with ACCA

    I am a solicitor specialising in Restructuring and Insolvency law and became interested in various aspects of how insolvency practitioners are licensed and regulated when ACCA was an insolvency regulator. I applied to be a lay panel member on ACCA’s Disciplinary and Regulatory Panel. I spent some time sitting on Disciplinary, Regulatory and Appeals panels considering cases against not only insolvency practitioners but all types of ACCA members and students.

    How did I become a Disciplinary Assessor

    When a vacancy arose for a Disciplinary Assessor, I applied and was appointed as one of a small number of assessors who work alone, independently of ACCA.

    What does a Disciplinary Assessor do

    The Disciplinary Assessors are mainly lawyers (solicitors or barristers) but you don’t need to be a lawyer to become one. Cases are sent to us electronically and we all work remotely. Disciplinary Assessors make arm’s length decisions on whether a case investigated by the Professional Conduct Department meets the threshold for matter to be considered by a Panel of the Regulatory and Disciplinary Committee, based on ACCA’s rules and regulations.

    When the Professional Conduct Department (PCD) has finished investigating a complaint, the case is referred to a Disciplinary Assessor in one of two ways:-

    • If PCD, consider that there is a case to answer and that the matter should be heard by a Disciplinary Committee, the case is first sent to a Disciplinary Assessor to review  the papers. The Disciplinary Assessor must decide if there is evidence to substantiate the complaint, it is sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct and it is in the public interest for the case to proceed to a Disciplinary Committee.

    • The other way a matter comes to a Disciplinary Assessor is if PCD finish investigating a complaint and decide to close the case. The complainant or member can ask for the case to be reconsidered by a Disciplinary Assessor. Again the Disciplinary Assessor reviews the papers and decides whether they agree with PCD or think the case should be referred to a Disciplinary Committee.

    In both types of matters, the Disciplinary Assessor is required to consider the matter and prepare written reasons setting out why they have come to their conclusions in a way that a person unconnected with the complaint understands the finding, the reasons and decision.

    What types of complaints do we see

    The cases we see are very varied. They include allegations that students have tried to gain ACCA qualifications by forging documents or cheating in exams, that members have not provided appropriate accountancy services or dealt with money laundering requirements properly or sometimes that members have committed criminal offences in their private lives which are inconsistent with being a member of a professional association such as ACCA.

    Why is the Disciplinary Assessor role important

    When a complaint has been investigated by PCD, it cannot proceed to a Disciplinary Committee without being considered by a Disciplinary Assessor. It is therefore an important part of the ACCA’s regulatory process, ensuring that ACCA is acting in the interests of fairness to the members being investigated whilst protecting the public and promoting professional standards and conduct for members of the ACCA and accountancy profession.

    It is interesting work and it feels good to be involved in the important work undertaken by ACCA to regulate its members and uphold the standards of the accountancy profession. As independent lay people, assessors play a critical role in ensuring the decision to proceed with cases is made in the public interest.”

  • Accountant (non-lay) Panel Member
    Thomas Cooper Portraits - 8th September 2014

    Arif Kamal BA (Hons.), MBA, FIoD, FCCA – first appointed in January 2011

    ‘I have and continue to thoroughly enjoy and immensely benefit from being a Panel member over the last few years for many reasons, including the following…

    To judge on people's future careers and mode of living, is no small responsibility and one has to make the judgement in the best interest of the profession whilst giving due regard to public interest. This is what I have enjoyed the most - a sense of real ownership and responsibility in promoting fairness and equality ethically.

    I have worked full time as an Finance Director/Chief Financial Officer alongside being a Panel member and gained and applied knowledge both ways. At board meetings I can relate points to panel hearings and committee meetings.

    I’ve gained valuable experience in decision making/reconciliation of different views and how to be and to be seen to be totally independent of my governing body. In addition, the training that is provided annually is most helpful not just for the panel role but for being a good accountant.

    My colleagues on various panels have come from different sectors and I have had a chance to meet and learn from other sectors and professions such as police, judiciary, and academics. I would strongly recommend qualified accountants to apply to act as Panel members as this experience is second to none!’


  • Chair (Legal and Lay)

    Suzan Matthews QC – first appointed in January 2016

    ‘ACCA is a vast organisation and its membership and regulatory functions reach around the world.  ACCA is responsible for issuing licences to enable members to undertake specific types of work, monitoring members' compliance with rules and standards and investigating complaints against members wherever they are based.  A Chair can find themselves chairing a Committee dealing with any of these areas.

    The first hearing I observed in training was a student member reported to ACCA for alleged cheating during an exam on the other side of the world, the hearing conducted by video link through interpreters.   The next case a seasoned accountant whose track record in his audit practice appeared dire and where ACCA contended that the public were at risk and his audit licence be removed.

    No two hearings are alike, and the variety of the work is pleasing and challenging. Suspending or removing someone from membership can have significant consequences for their career and earning capacity, but equally an incompetent or dishonest member can put the public at risk and threaten the reputation of ACCA members around the world. The evidential threshold is set high and the evidence examined with the greatest care.  The Chair signs the Decision and Reasons, so I need to know the process has been scrupulously fair, transparent and understandable.

    Work starts by putting hearing dates in my diary for the next quarter.  Then nearer a hearing date I get an email from one of the hearings officers giving details of the type of hearing and agenda for that day.  Cases often take place using video or audio links. About 10-14 days before the hearing date the agreed bundle is sent out by secure email and/or signed post.  This allows me to read in early to pick up any queries, conflicts etc.

    On the hearing day there are likely to be extra papers to be read. The pool of the committee membership is large, so I still find myself working with colleagues for the first time, despite being several years in service!  

    The Chair needs to ensure the fairness of the whole proceedings, to everyone both while listening to the case and then in closed discussions, so there is great need for clarity and efficiency.

    Apart from chairing hearings, Chairs can sit to give directions, deal with hearing preparation and consider administrative regulation matters.

    Hearings can throw up challenging & interesting legal points.   A Legal Adviser will have been appointed for the hearing - always someone very experienced in regulatory law, and ACCA will have a case presenter and sometimes the member will have legal representation or McKenzie friend. As you would expect ACCA has a set of very comprehensive written rules and guidance, living documents that get enhanced regularly.

    As a significant regulator ACCA ensures recent legal developments or legislation changes are flagged up quickly and training or guidance is arranged for updating and sharing of experiences and best practice.

    I look forward to hearing days.  Each case is important. Working to protect the public and maintain the professional standards of such a vast organisation is immensely worthwhile.’

  • Lay Panel member

    Eileen Skinner – first appointed February 2010

    ‘My name is Eileen Skinner. I am a solicitor, and spent many years doing court work before setting up and becoming Director of a postgraduate legal programme at the University of Glasgow.

    I applied for the role as a member of ACCA's Disciplinary, Appeals, and Admissions and Licensing Committees because I wanted to try something entirely different to my full time job. I knew absolutely nothing about accountancy!

    I was appointed in 2010. My role involves reading cases in advance of hearings; meeting with fellow panel members in private immediately before the hearing; (the Committee comprises an accountant member, a lay member and chair) listening to evidence presented by ACCA to support allegations against the member; and hearing the member and any witnesses in his/her defence. After hearing submissions, the Committee then deliberates in private as to whether or not, on the balance of probability, the allegations are proved, and if so, what the appropriate sanction should be.

    During my time with ACCA, I have developed my ability to work effectively in a committee setting. I am better able to analyse evidence and listen carefully to what is said by all involved. I have gained confidence in arguing my points. All of these are very useful and transferable skills.

    I have also learned a great deal from observing how different committee members conduct themselves.

    ACCA provides excellent training and hearings are very well supported by their staff, while ensuring that the independence of the Committee is maintained.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed my role and would strongly urge you to apply!’