How to Lodge a Complaint

Lodging a complaint with the Board and the Disciplinary Process that is followed

Any member of the public, an association or an organisation may lodge a complaint against an auditor who is registered with the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors ("IRBA") if they feel that the auditor is guilty of improper conduct. At the outset, it is important to understand that the Board investigates alleged improper conduct on the part of individual Registered Accountants and Auditors and, if necessary, implements disciplinary action against such auditors. The Board is not in a position to assist with the recovery of monies - it is neither a Court nor an alternative to the normal debt collection procedures.

In order for such a complaint to be made, it is important to note the following:

The person against whom you wish to lodge a complaint must be registered with the IRBA

In other words any complainant should first establish whether or not the respondent is a Registered Auditor (RA). The designation Chartered Accountant (CA) is conferred by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants which is a separate entity from the IRBA. If the person concerned is a CA (SA), it does not necessarily follow that he or she is an RA and registered with this Board. This might well be the case, but it is imperative that you confirm through the link, RA Search, on this website, that he or she is an RA.

Affidavit

Rule 2.2 of the Disciplinary Rules of the IRBA states that:

"Members of the public who wish to lodge a complaint of improper conduct against a registered auditor shall do so on affidavit..." The original affidavit is required.

An affidavit is a sworn statement signed in the presence of a Commissioner of Oaths (for example, an attorney, a police officer, postmaster or bank manager). Any of the aforementioned people have the authority to act as Commissioner of Oaths and you may go to any one of them to have your affidavit commissioned. Please ensure, particularly if you go to the SAPS, that they stamp it with the stamp which resembles the example below or with wording along similar lines. The Board frequently receives affidavits which are merely stamped Certified a true copy of the original document, or similar, which does not fulfil the requirements of an affidavit.

The affidavit must conclude with a deposition (below) confirming that the contents have been sworn under oath. Thereafter, all the pages including the annexures must be initialled by both the deponent and the Commissioner of Oaths.

_____________________________
Deponent

I, certify that the deponent has acknowledged that he/she knows and understands the contents of this affidavit, that he/she does not have any objection to taking the oath, and that he/she considers it to be binding on his conscience, and which was sworn to and signed before me at _________________ on this the ________ day of ______________ 2016, and that the administering oath complied with the regulations contained in Government Gazette No. R 1258 of 21 July 1972, as amended.

_______________________________
Commissioner of Oaths

Commissioner of Oaths stamp to be affixed.

With regard to the contents of your affidavit, please keep in mind the following points:

  • An affidavit is headed as such followed by the full particulars of the person making the deposition as well as the person or entity against whom the complaint is made;
  • Please specifically identify in your affidavit exactly what conduct you believe constitutes unprofessional conduct on the part of the auditor. Affidavits which simply state that "the auditor has acted unprofessionally as can be seen from the attached documentation", or similarly phrased affidavits, will be returned for clarification;
  • Please attach to your affidavit, copies of relevant documentation which support your complaint, and not the originals of those documents;
  • Please do not attach unreferenced documentation to your affidavit. If you wish to attach documentation to your affidavit, please ensure that there is a clear reference to it in your affidavit;
  • Please also ensure that the attachments to your affidavit are numbered, and that your reference to these attachments in your affidavit reflects the page number where the attachment can be found;
  • Please avoid documents which are double sided, or where emphasis is made in coloured ink. The reason for this is that your affidavit (and supporting documentation)will be copied, not only for the auditor concerned, but also for the members of the Investigating Committee;
  • For the same reason, please do not bind your complaint. If it is of such substance that it cannot be stapled, please rather give it to us in a ring binder or lever arch file;
  • Specifically with regard to e-mails which you might wish to attach to your affidavit, it adds considerable bulk if every time a response is received to an e-mail, that entire e-mail is re-printed and submitted. This effectively means that we are receiving the same e-mail over and over again, with only the latest response to the e-mail being new. Please ensure that e-mails are attached in chronological order, starting with the oldest one and running to the latest one, with no extraneous material attached.

While these guidelines may appear trivial, they are provided for practical reasons. If your complaint is succinct, easily digested and clearly referenced, the process of investigating your complaint will occur more efficiently.

The reason why complaints are required to be in the form of an affidavit is not only that the Disciplinary Rules of the board are delegated legislation and therefore have to be complied with, but also that the Board considers complaints against its members in a very serious light and requires members of the public to do likewise.

Defamation

Rule 2.2 of the Disciplinary Rules also states: "... A complaint shall set out clearly and concisely the specific acts or failures to act giving rise to the complaint of improper conduct."

It is important that members of the public understand that derogative offensive statements as well as subjective unsubstantiated allegations can be considered defamatory by the auditor against whom such statements are made. To make a defamatory statement simply means to make a statement which is slanderous in nature and can be considered as damaging to a person's reputation and good name.

In order to avoid your affidavit being considered defamatory, you should restrict yourself to the objective facts of the matter and try not to include any emotional unsupported allegations. It is preferable that the facts of the matter be stated simply, truthfully and without unnecessary elaboration and supported only by relevant documentation.

Disclosure

On furnishing the IRBA with an affidavit, it is prudent to confirm in a covering letter that you have no objection to your affidavit being forwarded to the respondent auditor. Also remember to include in a covering letter all your current contact details (for example, postal address, land line, cell phone, fax numbers and e-mail address)

Procedure

Section 48(1) of the Auditing Profession Act 26 of 2005 stipulates that "The Regulatory Board must refer a matter brought against a registered [auditor] to the investigating committee..."

While every effort is made to obtain a fast turnaround time with complaints, it is important to understand that the process of an investigation is not a rapid one. By its very nature, an investigation must take time if it is to be performed thoroughly and correctly. The Investigating Committee, which initially investigates complaints against auditors once all the relevant documentation and comment has been obtained, meets approximately seven times a year and is composed of senior practitioners in the auditing and legal fraternity. The Investigating Committee might require further information or further action to be taken by the directorate before it will be prepared to make a recommendation to the board. The Investigating Committee deals with each matter thoroughly and on its merits and this process cannot be done quickly or hastily.

An important point to remember is that once we have received a complaint we do not normally write to complainants simply to inform them that the matter is being dealt with. We ask complainants to accept this and that we will notify them when there are developments or when there is specific information which we would like from them.

Section 48(7) of the Auditing Profession Act 26 of 2005 states "The investigating committee must, after the conclusion of the investigation, submit a report stating its recommendations to the Regulatory Board..."

Once the Investigating Committee has finalised its investigation, it submits a recommendation to the Disciplinary Advisory Committee ("DAC"). The DAC consists of representative members of the Regulatory Board. The DAC considers the merits of the matter together with the recommendation of the Investigating Committee. In some instances before deciding on the matter the DAC might conduct its own investigation into the matter, or might refer the matter back to the Investigating Committee for further investigations.

A complainant is always advised of the outcome of the investigation. In addition, the Director: Investigations quarterly report, published in our newsletter, IRBA News (see under Publications elsewhere) contains details of the findings of the Disciplinary Advisory Committee.

Jurisdiction

The board is empowered by the Auditing Profession Act 26 of 2005 to investigate and if necessary hear any allegations of improper conduct against a practitioner and, if such practitioner is found guilty, to impose one of the prescribed punishments. The punishments include, inter alia, a caution, reprimand, a fine not exceeding R200 000, suspension from practice for a specific period and cancellation of the registration of the practitioner with the Board and removal of the auditor's name from the register of auditors.

As can be seen from the above, the powers of the Board are purely disciplinary in nature. The board does not act in place of a criminal or civil court and its jurisdiction extends only to the conduct of registered auditors. The attention of complainants is drawn to the fact that the board does not award compensatory orders in favour of the complainant if the auditor is found guilty of unprofessional conduct.

Should you have any further queries regarding the lodging of a complaint against a Registered Auditor, please contact Anthony De Jager at the IRBA on investigations@irba.co.za