FAQs about complaint investigation

Introduction

ACCA’s jurisdiction over its members is regulatory and disciplinary in nature. We operate a formal process of investigation, which is stipulated by regulations setting out our powers and responsibilities.

ACCA takes disciplinary action against its members where there is evidence of a serious departure from the standards of conduct to be expected of professional accountants. For further information on the disciplinary process, please visit our FAQs on complaint adjudication section

All complaints, regardless of whether they have been through the Assessment Department are subject to ACCA’s policy regarding complaints we will investigate. For more information, please download the Complaints that ACCA will investigate document (PDF format, 39 KB).

Therefore, we only investigate accountancy related complaints drawn to our attention within twelve months after the grounds for the complaint first arose. We normally only consider non-accountancy related complaints if the matter has been investigated by another body and a finding has been made which amounts to misconduct, such as a criminal conviction or disqualification as a Director. However, we will assess every complaint on its individual merits.

Please note that making a complaint against a member is not a substitute for seeking damages or other redress through the courts. Therefore, whilst ACCA members or firms may be ordered to pay compensation if a complaint against them is referred to a Disciplinary Committee and found proved, the maximum sum payable is £1,000.

ACCA itself cannot provide compensation for any loss suffered, unless the claim falls within the scope of its Financial Services Compensation Scheme. This may apply where a firm which was authorised to conduct 'investment business' by ACCA, has gone out of business and may cover certain outstanding liabilities incurred in respect of investment business.  

Who decides whether the case is suitable for investigation?

If the complaint does not clearly indicate misconduct on the part of the member, it will be assessed by the Assessment Department. If, however, misconduct appears obvious the matter will be reviewed initially by an Investigations Manager. 

Who will investigate the complaint?

All complaints deemed suitable for an investigation will be allocated to an investigating officer. Depending on the complexity and/or seriousness of the complaint, the matter may be investigated by a Senior Investigations Officer. 

Why has the investigating officer not investigated all of my complaints?

ACCA acts in the public interest and we adopt the principle of proportionality in our investigation of complaints. Accordingly, the issues to be investigated and the scope and direction of the investigation arising from the complaint are determined by ACCA, not the complainant, and will usually focus on those matters which are most serious. 

Complainants: Why am I receiving requests for information from investigating officers?

Investigations are carried out to a high standard on an evidential basis. Therefore, complainants are expected to have provided at the outset evidence to substantiate their complaints and to engage fully with the investigation by responding to communications in a timely manner.

The investigating officer will be responsible for a number of investigations at any given time and will make contact with you when he/she is in need of information in order to progress the investigation. There is no need for you to make contact with the investigating officer unless you are responding to a request for information.

In circumstances where you fail to respond to a request for information as required, we reserve the right to determine that you should no longer be treated as a ‘complainant’ in ACCA’s proceedings. If it becomes necessary to take this step, you will be notified of ACCA’s decision and you will no longer play a role in the complaints and disciplinary process.  

Complainants: How will I be contacted?

We will make contact primarily by email and/or telephone. In order to ensure that the investigation progresses smoothly, we will provide you with a deadline by which you will be expected to respond to a request for information. It is important that the complainant notifies the investigating officer if they will not be able to meet the deadline. 

Members: How will I be contacted if a complaint is made about me?

The investigating officer will normally contact you in writing via your nominated registered address to inform you of the complaint. Thereafter, you can indicate to the investigating officer how you would like to receive further communications from ACCA about the complaint - i.e. by email, letter, fax.

As a member you are required to keep ACCA up-to-date with your contact details, including postal and email addresses. A failure to do so may result in you failing to receive important information about your membership or the complaint. Accordingly, please notify ACCA forthwith of any change in your registered address other than one that is merely temporary. 

Members: Do I have to respond to complaints by telephone?

In general, it is far more efficient for both you and the investigating officer if the matter is dealt with by telephone. However, the nature of the complaint and your personal preferences will be taken into account.

Please note that all members have a duty to co-operate with an investigating officer in relation to the consideration and investigation of a complaint. A failure to respond to an investigating officer can result in a failure to co-operate allegation being raised by ACCA. If you are unable to respond to requests for information, you must inform the investigating officer or they will assume that you are failing in your duty to co-operate.  

Will the Member see the complaint?

The complaint and any evidence obtained in support of the complaint will be shared with the member who will be given the opportunity to comment on the complaint in writing.

The member’s comments in response to a complaint may be shared with the complainant and the complainant may be asked to provide further evidence as a result of the comments submitted.  

What happens once all the evidence is obtained?

Once all necessary documentation and comments have been obtained, ACCA will consider the evidence and, taking into account all relevant considerations, will decide whether further action should be taken regarding the complaint or whether the investigation should be closed.

Once our investigation is complete, we will notify both parties in writing of the outcome.

How long will the investigation take?

ACCA aims to conclude its investigations within six months of allocation to an investigating officer. However, particularly complex matters can take considerably longer.  

What are the possible outcomes from the investigation process?

The possible outcomes from investigation are:

  • Closed - Insufficient evidence / No Case to Answer. The complaint will be closed where the evidence is insufficient to substantiate the complaint or contradicts it
  • Closed – Rest on File. This means that, although there appears to be sufficient evidence to substantiate the complaint, ACCA considers that it is not in the public interest for a report of disciplinary allegations to be prepared and that instead, the matter should rest on the member’s file for a period of five years. This means that the allegations may be taken into account in the course of dealing with any later complaints received about the member.
  • Report of Disciplinary Allegations. Where there is evidence to substantiate the complaint and the matters complained of are sufficiently serious and it is in the public interest for them to be considered further, a report of disciplinary allegations will be prepared for consideration by an Independent Assessor.

What happens if I do not agree with your decision to close and/or give a rest on file?

If ACCA closes the complaint or decides that the allegations arising from the complaint should rest on the member’s file, both parties will be provided with a copy of the reasons for the decision in writing. Both parties will have the right to request that the decision be reviewed by an Independent Assessor. 

Who is the Independent Assessor?

The Independent Assessors are a group of individuals with a wide range of expertise, including insolvency, accountancy and law. 

How long do I have to raise my objection to the Assessor's decision?

If any party wants an Assessor to review the decision, they should submit a written request setting out their detailed grounds for review, including which aspects of the decision they disagree with and why.

The Assessor will not consider the request unless this requirement is complied with. The request must be received within 30 days of ACCA’s notification of their decision; there is no power to extend this deadline.  

Why can't I communicate directly with the Assessor?

The Assessors are independent of ACCA and all communications with the Assessor need to be transparent. Parties will be given ample opportunity to provide and discuss both the evidence and the complaint in detail during the investigation. The Assessor will review the complete file.

It is for the Assessor to decide if there is information missing. Before concluding his/her review the Assessor can direct that the investigating officer make further enquires and/or carry out further investigation or seek further information or evidence from the parties. 

What are the possible outcomes from the Assessor's review?

In summary, depending on the type of referral, the Assessor can decide whether the evidence against the member is such that there is a case to answer and should be referred to a Disciplinary Committee as there is a real prospect of the Committee finding an allegation proved in light of the evidence and it is in the public interest for the case to be heard.  

Will I receive a copy of the Assessor's decision?

Both parties will receive a copy of the Assessor’s written decision. 

I have been told that a report of the disciplinary allegations has been drafted. What happens now?

Member: In cases where a report of disciplinary allegations is drafted, you will be given a chance to submit written responses before the Assessor considers the report.

Complainant: Although ACCA will notify you of the allegations to be considered by the Assessor, you will not be provided with a copy of the report or the supporting evidence to be considered by the Assessor.  

What are the possible outcomes from the report of the disciplinary allegations?

After the Assessor has considered both the report and the member’s representations, the following are the possible outcomes:

  • No case to Answer
  • Rest on File
  • Referral to Disciplinary Committee

I do not agree with the Assessor's decision on the report of disciplinary allegations. What should I do?

Member: If the Assessor closes the case with a rest on file you can request a review by another Assessor.

Complainant: If the Assessor’s decision is to close the case or rest the allegations on file you can request a review by another Assessor.

If either party wants to exercise this right they must submit their request for a review within 30 days of being notified, setting out the aspects of the original Assessor’s decision that they disagree with and why.  

I do not agree with the second Assessor's decision. What does this mean?

The second Assessor’s decision is final.

The further Assessor will consider the report of disciplinary allegation, the original Assessor’s decision and the relevant parties’ grounds of review.