What to do after Lodging a Complaint
After lodging the complaint, ACRA will acknowledge receipt of the complaint within 3 working days.
In reviewing the complaint, ACRA may need clarification or more information from the complainant to support his/her allegations. ACRA will write to the complainant to seek such information as necessary.
Review of Complaint by the Registrar of Public Accountants (Registrar)
Upon receiving a complaint, the Registrar will review the complaint to determine if the complaint is frivolous, vexatious, misconceived or without merit or that the information is unsubstantiated. In reviewing the complaint, ACRA may need clarification or more information from the complainant to support his/her allegations. ACRA will write to the complainant to seek such information as necessary. If the complaint is determined to be frivolous, vexatious, misconceived or without merit or that the information is unsubstantiated, the Registrar will dismiss the complaint. Otherwise, the Registrar will recommend to the Public Accountants Oversight Committee (PAOC) to refer the complaint to a Complaints Committee (CC) or a Disciplinary Committee (DC) for an inquiry. A complaint is referred directly to the DC where it relates to the conviction of the public accountant or the public accounting entity of an offence involving fraud or dishonestly or implied defect in character which makes the public accountant concerned unfit for his profession.
The duration of the review will vary on a case-by-case basis and may take up to 6 months. ACRA will notify the complainant on the outcome of the review.
Complaints Referred to Complaints Committee (CC)
The CC comprises 3 public accountants and 1 layperson from the Complaints and Disciplinary Panel.
Usually the process involves the CC reviewing the documents on hand and seeking clarifications from the complainant and the public accountant / public accounting entity concerned. However, this may not happen in every case.
Powers of the CC
The CC has the powers under the Accountants Act to:
- call upon or appoint any person to assist in its inquiry;
- require any person to:
- produce any book, document, paper or other record for inspection by the CC
- give all information in relation to any book, document, paper or other record required by the CC.
- require any person to attend and give evidence or produce any book, document, paper or record.
A person who, without lawful excuse, refuses or fails to comply with any requirement of the CC stated above shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.
Where in the course of an inquiry, the CC receives any information or evidence relating to the conduct of the public accountant or public accounting entity concerned which:
- may give rise to further proceedings, the CC may after giving notice to the public accountant or public accounting entity concerned, decide on its own motion to inquire into the matter and report its findings to the PAOC.
- discloses an offence under any written law, the CC shall record that information in its report to the PAOC.
The CC has 3 months to complete its inquiry. An extension may be granted by the PAOC if more time is needed.
Outcome of Inquiry
Upon completing the inquiry, the CC may:
- dismiss the complaint and notify the PAOC and all parties involved
- recommend to the PAOC to:
- issue a warning; or
- order a letter of advice; or
- make such other order (E.g. order a public accountant to review his engagements and provide confirmation that he is in compliance with certain areas of the Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics); or
- constitute a DC to hold a formal inquiry.
Complaints Referred to the Disciplinary Committee (DC)
The DC comprises 4 public accountants and 1 layperson from the Complaints and Disciplinary Panel.
Pre-hearing conference(s) is/are usually held by the DC before a formal hearing is held to resolve administrative matters for better management of the case and hence, expedite the process of the formal hearing. Pre-hearing conference(s) involves the public accountant / public accounting entity, ACRA’s legal counsel and the public accountant / public accounting entity’s legal counsel (if represented). Affidavits of evidence-in-chief (if applicable) are exchanged following which the formal hearing will commence.
At the formal hearing, the process involves ACRA substantiating the charges against the public accountant / public accounting entity and for him/it to refute the charges (if any). Witnesses may be called and examined by both ACRA’s legal counsel and the public accountant / public accounting entity (or their legal counsel if represented).
Duration of the Formal Inquiry
The DC has 6 months to complete its formal inquiry. An extension may be granted by the PAOC if more time is needed.
Outcome of Formal Inquiry
Upon completing the formal inquiry, the DC, if it is satisfied that the charges against the public accountant / public accounting entity are substantiated, has the power to make any one of the following recommendations to the PAOC. The PAOC will consider the recommendations accordingly and make its decision on the appropriate sanction to be imposed thereafter.
|For Public Accountants
||For Public Accounting Firms/Corporations/LLPs
- cancel the public accountant’s registration
- suspend the public accountant from practice for up to 2 years
- impose conditions necessary to restrict the practice of the public accountant for a period of up to 2 years
- impose a penalty of up to S$10,000
- write a censure to the public accountant
- recommend that the public accountant to give such undertaking as PAOC thinks fit (e.g. undertake to attend a refrsher course on auditing standards)
- revoke the approval granted to the accounting corporation/firm/LLP
- suspend the accounting corporation/firm/LLP from providing public accountancy services for up to 2 years
- impose conditions necessary to restrict the provision of public accountancy services for up to 2 years
- impose a penalty of up to S$100,000
- write a censure to the accounting corporation/firm/LLP
- require the accounting corporation/firm/LLP to give such undertaking as the Disciplinary Committee thinks fit (e.g. undertake that for all charities audited by the entity, to have a reviewing partner in addition to a signing partner)
Important: The information provided here is not intended to bind ACRA staff and is not meant as a legal guide or provision of any legal advice. When in doubt, please consider seeking independent legal advice.