Complaints, Grievances and Disputes
Investigations and Disciplinary Hearings (taken from the ICB's Code of Professional Conduct), a full copy of the ICB's Code of Professional Conduct can be downloaded here.
To lodge a complaint against an ICB member, download the Member Complaint Form, and return to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Any complaint received by or initiated by the Institute shall be referred to a director of the Institute who shall for this purpose be appointed to investigate or make inquiries about the complaint for the purpose of enabling the Board to deal with it ["the Investigations Officer"]
- Upon the making of a complaint, the Investigations Officer shall write to the member notifying him/her of the substance of the complaint and inviting him/her to comment upon it within 21 days of the date of the Investigation Officer's letter
- If it appears to the Investigating Officer that sufficient investigations have been undertaken, the Investigations Officer shall convene a meeting of not less than two members of the Board to consider the accusation: ["the Disciplinary Panel"]
- The member about whom the complaint has been received must have not less than 14 clear days notice of the hearing before the Disciplinary Panel. The notice shall be in writing and sufficient service shall be made by sending it by registered post to the address shown on the member's Institute membership records
- The Investigating Officer shall attend to explain the substance of the complaint and present the evidence of any complaint and ask questions of the member (should he elect to give evidence) before the Disciplinary Panel but shall not participate in the considerations of the Disciplinary Panel
- On a finding by a majority of the Disciplinary Tribunal present that any complaint is proved beyond reasonable doubt may deal with the complaint by making either no order or by any one or more of the following penalties in respect of that complaint:
- be given a informal or formal warning
- be fined up to $2,000
- be suspended from all or any of the privileges of membership for a stated period of time
- be expelled from the Institute and will then immediately forfeit his interest and privileges in the Institute without further claim for calls and for any other money paid to the Institute, but will remain liable for any calls, annual membership fees or other money outstanding at the date of expulsion
- be ordered to pay all or any part of the costs of the investigation or hearing
Complaints, grievances or disputes must be provided to the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers in writing. They will be handled by the ICB Complaints Process (as outlined in the Constitution), and in a timely manner, with due consideration to the rights of each party and adequate time for communication.
Outcomes may include requirements for members to undertake further education, censure, disciplinary action or suspension or termination of membership.
The ICB's Annual Report will include statistics on the kinds of complaints, findings made and actions taken, Member names will not be published.
Raising “Operation or Governance” matters
The ICB Governance Officer (Celina McAlister Celina@icb.org.au) is the first point of contact for matters that members wish to raise in relation to the operation or governance of the Association.
If the matter concerns the Governance Officer or if the member so desires, the matter could be initiated with the Chair (Colin Walker Colin@icb.org.au).
All such matters will be co-ordinated and administered by the Governance Officer unless the matter involves that person.
The matter will then be considered by the Chair and a Director responsible for Governance matters.
The matter will be brought to a Board meeting for either consideration or report (excluding any effected person. The process will include appropriate procedures for natural justice and ability for any effected person to provide a response to enable full information available to the Board.
The person raising the matter will be kept informed during the process and advised of the outcome.
Important Note: Members may at all times request the raising of matters by the Board or by Members in accordance with the Constitution.
Complaints Reports and Statistics
It is our duty (as a Professional Association) to inform you of the complaints received, specifically the requirement is to advise on complaints about members, however we provide ancillary comment below.
During the 2020 year, we received a total of two member complaints resolved in 2020. The first complaint commenced at the end of 2019 and was finalised in 2020, and the one in December has since been closed in January 2021.
A complaint was received about a member acting outside of the authorities and boundaries provided to her.
Once investigations commenced, it emerged that the member is caught in the middle of a legal battle that is going on between her client’s management and their board.
The investigation undertaken verified that the member had taken direct instructions from the authorised contact person within the organisation as was appropriately acting on those instructions. It became clear that the challenge amounted as a result of the level of authority that the authorisation contact had being challenged by the Board. The member had acted appropriately on the instructions provided to her.
No further action was taken against this member.
The complaint received in December 2020 was initially lodged on the basis of the member being, dishonest, charging for work not completed and unethical. Our investigation revealed that at the centre of this debate was a fee dispute between the member and her client. We did not find that the member had been dishonest or unethical, but we were unable to ascertain whether she had billed for work that she was not engaged to do.
It was highlighted that the member had not used an engagement letter, and had not kept some defining conversations in writing, and neither had her client. This resulted in a ‘he said, she said’ situation about the scope of work and the applicable charge rates.
Recommendations were made to the member about her use of engagement letters, and following up any verbal conversations, particularly those resulting in defining discussions and decision in writing, to avoid these scenarios in the future. This complaint highlights the importance of the use of engagement letters and clear documented communications between members and clients particularly in relation to fees and scope of work.
The complainant withdrew the complaint in February 2021. No further action was taken against this member.
During the 2019 year, we received 1 formal complaint about a member. ICB engaged with the member and provided advice as appropriate.
Access to client data The case raised the issue of access to client data when multiple client business owners are in conflict. Two partners in a business were negotiating the exit of one partner from the business. The member’s engagement was in an oversight and consulting capacity only. All client records and electronic files were accessible and maintained by the business authorised personnel. The member had an engagement letter in place outlining their service delivery and who were the authorised contacts.
The exiting partner did not have their own authorised access to data and was not named as an authorised contact under the terms of the engagement letter with the member. The member had not prepared any financial reports during their time of engagement. The exiting partner asserted that he had wanted access to certain financial reports and he requested them from the member. The member referred him back to their staff, his business partner and the accountant as, in accordance with their engagement agreement, the member was not required or responsible to provide financial reports that he had not been involved in preparing. The member was accused of withholding access to financial records. It was determined that the member had acted professionally and appropriately and had not withheld access to information that could have been obtained, if the authority existed, via the in house accounts staff and/or the business’ accountants.
The professionalism of the member was maintained when he referred the exiting partner back to his authorised contact and the accountant. He also maintained the confidentiality of client information based on the authorities provided to him in the engagement agreement.
This case highlights the importance of having in place engagement agreements that clearly outline the service delivery components of an engagement and having listed authorised personnel entitled to receive or gain access to business financial data. All ICB members should have such current engagement agreements in place.
We also received a request from member (A) to follow up member (B) who appeared to be advertising BAS Services when they had indicated to colleagues that they were not a registered BAS Agent. It was also brought to our attention the unauthorised use of the ICB Crest. No formal complaint was made as both parties came from a small regional community. Member (A)’s website was reviewed and they were asked to provide their registered agent number or it was recommended to remove references to BAS Services from their website and to remove the ICB Crest. The member complied with both requests.
ICB recommends all members ensure that they are providing services that are appropriate to their registration (or non-registration) status with the Tax Practitioner Board. We also would like to remind all members that the use of the ICB crest is reserved for Members In Practice, Fellow & Lifetime members only.
During the 2018 year, we received formal complaints about three members. In all instances ICB have engaged with the members and provided the required advice as appropriate.
Case #1 raised the issue of professionalism in the hand over process between two bookkeepers at the cessation of an engagement. The new bookkeeper alleged work for a particular period of engagement by the member was not completed and had to be redone, for which they charged the client. ICB helped establish that an appropriate handover and cessation of the previous bookkeeper had not been permitted by the business nor was a handover provided in any form . The complaint was withdrawn.
The case highlights the importance of a handover process and communication. ICB members should provide a status report in all situations.
Case #2 raised the issue of professionalism when dealing with other parties at the cessation of a client engagement. Member (A) was contacted by Member (B) requesting information to take over a client, to which member (A) responded in a manner not aligned with how we believe a professional bookkeeper should respond. A complaint was lodged by both members as to the conduct of the other with both ICB and the TPB. A professional certified bookkeeper should always act in a professional manner at all stages of communication, especially when the relationship ends unexpectedly or abruptly. No further communication in relation to their complaints was received or requested, and a further internal review deemed the outcome of the TPB complaints process would provide for further action if required.
Case #3 raised the issue of professionalism and independence when ceasing work with a client. As noted for Case #2 the professional communication expected under the code of conduct continues beyond the cessation of a client engagement to dealings with all stakeholders. The member was cautioned that getting involved in defending the actions or reputations of a third party should still be conducted with professionalism and removal of emotion. It was deemed that no further action was to be taken.
Other We also received a number of complaints in relation to the business practices of an HR Advice Service. These matters were referred directly to the HR Advice provider for resolution. Due to varying factors, complaints from members being a contributing factor, the partnership with the HR Provider was not renewed in 2018.
During the 2017 year, we received formal complaints about two members. In both instances ICB have spoken with and provided the required advice and caution to the members concerned.
Case #1 raised the issue of Independence whereby as a professional certified bookkeeper it is your requirement to remain professionally (and personally) independent of the business and the individuals. The issue arose on the cessation of the business partnership and each partner then establishing competing businesses causing accusations and confusion over who did what to who and for who.
Case #2 raised the issue of professionalism when ceasing work with a client. A professional certified bookkeeper should always provide a status report upon the cessation of an engagement. In this way there is documented evidence of the status of the work at the point of cessation, eve if the work is only partially complete.
We also received a number of concerns about the performance of an Educator that was previously listed as an ICB Accredited Training Provider. These matters were referred to the Educator for resolution. Due to the frequency and nature of complaints ICB has not purused the ongoing Accredition of that Educator.
We also received numerous complaints about the behaviour of superfunds demanding behaviour of employers that is not in line with requirements. We also dealt with many matters as to interactions with the ATO that did not always go according to the design of the ATO. ICB passed on a number of complaints to the Tax Practitioners Board on behalf of members about the behaviour of unregistered Agents. While these matters are outside the domain of the ICB complaints process, they remain within our sphere of involvement and influence.
During 2016 we received one formal complain about the behaviour of a member. Due to the complainant wishing to remain completely confidential we were unable to undertake comprehensive action however ICB did consult and advise with the member concerned.
Complaints Received and Resolved
Please address all formal complaints to:
The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers
31 Queen Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Email to Admin@icb.org.au