MyCIMA

Formal Disciplinary Hearing

Replies : 15

I am currently a trainee accountant in a company in the North East. We own 51% of a subsidiary company, with the other 49% owned by a separate company to ourselves.

I am a trainee accountant, and as part of my training I have been undertaking the monthly management accounts for this business, and upon completion sending them out to the other company owners, having first sought approval of the accounts from the Company Accountant, and our Managing Director.

It has since transpired that the information I sent out was wrong for three consecutive months without the errors being spotted, and I am now being formally disciplined with my employer citing "(other company's) management have lost faith in the accuracy and relevance of your reports."

I am not qualified at this stage, having not taken any of my managerial level papers, a fact the company are aware of. Is it right that I be held solely responsible for the accounts being sent out inaccurately?

It may be worth noting that the accounts in question included our company year-end accounts and that the company accountant said at the time he had performed a "thorough and comprehensive review" of the accounts, and that he failed to spot the mistake whilst we have since had external auditors in, who also failed to spot the error.

The company accountant is the person conducting the disciplinary hearing and I have been warned to expect a final written warning for my misconduct. I have accepted my responsibility for the mistakes occurring in the first place, however I'm less convinced that I am entirely to blame for the loss of faith suffered, when qualified people haven't been able to see the mistakes themselves.

Am I actually even technically allowed to send the monthly accounts out to our partner company without specific approval from a qualified person? My hearing is on Monday morning, so any advice before then would be gratefully received!

 Thanks in Advance

 

disciplinary hearing

Hi Allyd, it is not easy for me to advise anything on this matter, myself being from an overseas country. Nevertheless, I believe there is an ethical issue involved. The Code of Ethics reads:

(c) Professional Competence and Due Care – to maintain professional knowledge and skill at the level required to ensure that a client or employer receives competent professional services based on current developments in practice, legislation and techniques and act diligently and in accordance with applicable technical and professional standards. 

You may want to explore in more detail what safeguards CIMA members or students should apply by referring to the Code provisions. Also there is a helpline for questions related to ethics.

Also if the commission finds misconduct make sure you report it to the Institute pursuant to their Bylaws within 30 days.

 

Supervision?

If your work is so critical, as a trainee, you should be supervised and proper training should be provided.  It sounds like others are at fault here.  I wonder who discovered the error in the end?

Take some proper advice from an employment law specialist if you feel you are being scapegoated.  You might like to get someone to attend the meeting who will stick up for you?  Are HR involved or is it just down to your boss (who might try to cover his own failings by getting you to take the fall).

.

How this goes will to an extent, on how expereinced you are (or claimed to be) how long you have been in the role, magnitude and nature of ther error, the reporting line etc., was the company accountant supposed to be supervising your work.

Really good advice from Amir and Jamie above..... extra thoughts/comments are:

How big a company is this, I'm guessing SME, however either way you should have a proper employment contract which may/(should?) refer to how displinary procedures are conducted within the company, sometimes these stipulate that you may bring a colleague etc to the hearing .... you say final written warning have they given you previous verbal warnings? Sounds like there maybe a potential stich up here for the accountant not doing his job (obviously I'm basing that on one side of the story). If you are asked to sign anything during/after the hearing then DO NOT before reviewing with an employment lawyer ... you have the right to defer the hearing if your appointed person can't make it ....Pls have a read of the following links some useful guidance if you haven't seen them 

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/RedundancyAndLeavingYourJob/Dismissal/DG_10026692

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/ResolvingWorkplaceDisputes/Disciplinaryprocedures/DG_10028114 

 Finally, I suggest removing your surname from your profile or using a pseudonym as these posts can come up in google and potentially could back to haunt you in future .... Good luck with it and hope it goes ok.

 

 

Unfair !

The word scapegoat jumped off the page there! I think its unfair to entirely blame you, I take it the actual accountant who the actual responsibility lies with will be receiving a warning for his incompetance in not checking the figures.

You definately need some representation in your hearing. You could try ringing ACAS. I definately would not take the blame for this, if you get more than a telling off you want to to go to HR, the MD / owner.

 

Is the 'Company Accountant' an ACMA/FCMA?

I would be appalled if this person is a member of CIMA!

Keep your chin up. From the manner in which you have raised this concern someone is trying to pass the buck...............

Best regards

Cliff Moggs

Thanks

Thanks for the advice everyone.

I'm being accompanied by our depot manager on Monday, and have indeed taken some legal advice, (oh the advantages of a girlfriend who's a legal secretary!)

I haven't had any previous warnings that are on my record no. I'm thankful that my views have been somewhat supported by other people on here too. Obviously don't want to provide too much info as there'd be confidentiality issues, but it's given me the confidence to go into the hearing on Monday knowing I'm right in he way I'm viewing things, so much appreciated everyone.

All's well?

It would be nice to know that you sorted out your difficulties.  Hopefully it wasn't as bad as you feared.

Outcome

Yes, sorry did intend to post the outcome.

I was given a final written warning for "recklessness" to quote the letter. This will stay on my record for the next 12 months, unless I appeal successfully.

I'm quite lucky in that my girlfriend's a legal secretary, so am taking advice from her firm's employment lawyer before making a decision either way. Decision either way seems to rest upon whether reckless was a fair description of my actions or not.

The letter states that, and I quote, "within the meeting you stated that you feel you are being punished for an account that has been checked by a senior staff member and our company auditors, you also stated that you are a trainee and therefore your work should be checked, however may I respectfully point out that you are a trainee accountant who has been employed with us for three years and have been producing (company name) accounts for one year, we would therefore expect the role to be carried out to a professional standard. You cannot rely on me to find all your errors nor can you assume that I have found them all."

That surprised me somewhat really. I genuinely thought I should be able to expect my supervisor to spot errors that were of a material nature that would lead to potential disciplinary action, when undertaking a thorough and comprehensive review.

 

Foregone conclusion

It doesn't sound like you've been given a fair hearing.  The frustrating thing is you can be sure your work will be checked from now on and if/when a mistake is found you'll be for the chop.

All you can do is take the legal advice after they've reviewed your actions.  The recklessness charge seems a bit subjective. Hope it works out somehow.

In time, move on.

I would ask myself, "is this a company that I find supportive of my work. Are the individuals 'role models' that I wish to follow".

From what you have said, it is your perogative to quietly look for another job. Your obligation is twofold, to do your best and to give the required notice.

Best regards

Cliff Moggs

Now hold on a minute...

He says that you (as a trainee) are reckless because you assumed that he (the experienced, qualified supervisor) would have spotted his mistakes.

 I would counter that he is reckless because he assumed that you (a trainee) could and should be left to produce accounts that would be sent to external parties without a thorough and complete check by a competant person.

You my friend are being stitched up. He is embarrassed and is trying to shift the blame.

This will only become an issue if someone applies for a reference on your behalf or if you commit some otherwise minor offence that would allow them to fire you under a 'totting up' procedure.

I also serioulsy doubt that someone so close to the issue is desirable as the investigator in this instance.

Controls

If you stay you need to make sure you put in controls to check your work. I don't know the details. If it was an excel error then put in control formula. If it could be highlighted by comparing GP percentages then review these. Anyone can make mistakes but an experienced accountant would ensure that the chances of errors are minimal due to reviewing the figures before issuing and comparing with budgets and past trends and include controls to avoid important errors. Learn from your mistake. Take it as an opportunity to bring in controls and tighten up the proceedures. And good luck.

Appeal Outcome

Had the appeal hearing this morning. They've reduced the 12 months period down to 6 after I pointed out what it said in my contract and that they were on dodgy ground changing it to 12 months because of a change they didn't consult me on, but they stick by their decision.

 

Oh Well. New employment time I think!

Fair hearing

Your letter says "You cannot rely on me to find all your errors nor can you assume that I have found them all", which sounds to me like the hearing was conducted by the person that should be taking some of the responsibility here. This does not seem right at all.

Legal

It is legal to do so. ACAS guidelines state they should be different people if at all practicable, but a company of our size, they argued that not many people had the technical knowledge needed to investigate things properly and hold the full disciplinary.

Guess that's a subjective viewpoint that they're entitled to, and very difficult to say it was definitively wrong of them to do so.

Lesson to learn though, employment law and disciplinary issues are a nightmare!