Thursday, February 21, 2013

Do Professional Societies care about the Public or only their Members?

Yesterday I was horrified when I made a phone call to CPA Australia asking if a) someone had been a member and b) if they'd ever been the subject to Disciplinary action or complaint, especially around 2004.

The answer given I found shocking:
That information is Private, it's part of the "Member Record". You have to get their permission to release that information. [In response to question on 'serial offenders' and 'irregularities' in Association accounts well over $1M.] This is our Policy. If you want to pursue this, you can write to our Legal Department who probably won't respond to you.
Compare that to Aviation, not just Pilots...
Not only do they have the best Quality and Safety systems of any Industry and Profession, they take it as a given that Open and Transparent Governance, including professional discipline matters, is fully public.

Sunshine is the best antiseptic for corruption, negligence and incompetence.

Today I wrote to a TV current-affairs program with:
If you thought Dr Death of Bundaberg and the Butcher of Bega weren't bad enough, what do other Professional Societies do that's different?
Members First, stuff the public!
Unlike Aviation, they are there to keep the Sins of their Members secret.
2 stories: IT Recruiters and Accountants (CPA)
IT Recruiting (ITCRA).
If you complain about a recruiter, whatever they decide about the compliant is a secret. Probably the same with general recruiting [the GM of ITCRA used to work for that Association. Commented they got many, many more complaints.]

My Story:

CPA Australia:
What happens when you ask if a CPA has ever been disciplined?
Even if you think they're part of a 20yr conspiracy, potentially a swindle, worth $1-2MM...
The Association Investigation: NSW Assoc Y0133609.

NOTE: the Association is NOT the subject of this commentary on Professional bad behaviour and are known for being litigious. I will not name them and ask others to maintain this confidentiality although the registered name appears on the official documents and their Journal referenced. [I do have the technology to black-out the information in PDF's.]

RL was the Public Officer Y0133609 from  21 July 1997 to 10 December 2009 according to the official Association Extract.  He was also Treasurer, though the period is uncertain as the historical Committee Register of Y0133609 is not available on-line.

These Association returns, fully public, were procured from the NSW Associations Register and contain the name and address of the Public Officer, RL, at Heysen Close, Pymble:

Y0133609 1996 Return.pdf

What's NOT in the forms that four years returns (1996-1999) were submitted on the one day, triggering at least two penalty clauses of the 1984 Act:
  • s54(1)(f) - Forced winding up on failure to lodge returns for 3 financial years
  • s27 - Lodge statements within 1 month of AGM.
The accounts, in my opinion, violate s26(6) in that they don't give a "True and Fair view" of the financial affairs of Y0133609. If I'd been at the AGM those accounts were presented, I and everybody I've known in a Professional Association, would've rejected those accounts.

RL gave a Business Hours number on the Public 1996-1999 returns, identifying his then employer:  "CCS Partners" in the City. CCS used to be Calligeros, Cassim & Simos.

CCS confirmed RL once worked there but would provide no other details, not even if he'd been a member of CPA Australia or the Institute of Charted Accountants.

There is a current White Pages listing for RL at 3 Ellendale Rd, Kenthurst NSW 2156.

The gross irregularities in Y0133609 accounts that I wanted to follow-up with CPA Australia is $1.25MM missing from the 1996-1999 Accounts attested to as correct by this upstanding, presumably registered, Accountant.

A large bequest was left to Y0133609 by Stanley Whaley of Queensland, except that it never appears in the Association accounts. The money was transferred to a Trust which under s26(6)(d) they were obliged to report as well, but never did.

Images of relevant Journal pages publicly declaring the Bequest and its movement to a Trust:

Y0133609 Journal 1995 #2 pg3
Y0133609 Journal 1995 #2 pp 5 & 6
Y0133609 Journal 1996 #4 pp 63-64

Full-text PDF on-line:

But the matter doesn't end there...

The Public Officer is seen under the Act as having special responsibilities, they are the official representative and where notices for the Association will be served by the Registrar. Under s23 of the Act the Committee has just 14 days to advise of a change of Public Officer and the new address to serve notices. It appears RL left Y0133609 5 or 6 years before the Registrar was notified.

RL is in the Journal of Y0133609 at the end of 2003, but never heard from again after that. He is still listed as being on the committee at the end of 2004 and there's no mention of him in mid-2005. After being a major "mover and shaker" within the Association, he's suddenly gone without trace.
Y0133609 Committee Nov 2004
Y0133609 Committee, Jun 2005
Y0133609 Journal 2003 #4

Yet he was still listed as Public Officer until 2009 when the Registrar took the highly unusual step of involuntarily cancelling the registration of Y0133609 for failing to lodge mandatory annual returns for 10 years.

After that little lapse of not filing returns for 4 years in 1996-1999, RL had never filed another one!
The official Association Extract shows Y0133609 didn't file a return in 2000-2003 nor any official documents until 07-May-2010.
After a period of almost a year, when accounts and returns for 2003-2009 were filed together, very strangely the Registrar, under s54A(2), reinstated Y0133609's registration as if nothing had ever happened. No penalties were levied, at least not according to the list of official documents available. Y0133609 were allowed to continue trading while formally deregistered, which makes me wonder "Why bother with the Act and registration at all?". I find this strange...

But this is about RL and his behaviour as a Professional Accountant.

Why were no accounts or returns filed by Y0133609 for the 4 years, 2000-2003?

The reason isn't on public record, but can't be related to a "7 year statute of limitations", nor to 5 years.

What we do know is that RL stopped writing in Y0133609's Journal in 2004.

What we see with the non-lodgement of the accounts is consistent with RL doing a massive Dummy Spit in early 2004 and withdrawing completely from Y0133609 and, we can guess, in a fit of temper deleting all records and files relating to them from his personal and work computers. If he'd felt this way, he also would not have felt a responsibility to inform the Registry of the Public Officer vacancy either. [Under the new Act of 2009, this is now an offence, with a penalty, for the Public Officer, but not then.]

As an Accountant acting as their Treasurer and responsible for filing BAS statements [noted in the Journal], he would've been handling the bookkeeping on a computer. Recreating that work from paper records would've been deemed too hard by both the incoming Treasurer and later by the Registrar.

I've been involved with a number of small Professional Associations and sometimes, in spite of the requirements under the Act, volunteers move on and records, especially 'the books' are lost forever.

It gets better yet, still.

In late 1999, the past-president of the "Victorian Branch", after years of confronting the Committee of Y0133609 and RL (still Treasurer), wrote about the events and misbehaviour in detail.

RL's actions were deliberate and intentional hiding this large bequest entirely from the Regulators and the Committee either went along with it or were involved.

The Victorian tried to publish his detailed account of the goings on at Y0133609 in the Journal of another well known and respected Society, but that editor withdrew the piece after threats of a defamation action.

Y0133609 was known for being litigious and for using Mr Whalley's money to back court cases. In its 1996 Report on Activities (the only one produced publicly), ~$180,000 was given to an individual for a failed lawsuit they'd followed closely, even reporting daily on. (The case was rumoured to have cost north of $500,000). This case, heard and appealed in the Federal Court, produced some much cited Case Law for the Trade Practices Act. The academic who took the action, a Professor, sold up and moved to Adelaide to pay his legal debts.

So, when there is strong Public Interest involved, why don't "Professional" Bodies automatically provide full public disclosure of complaints and disciplinary action?

Why are major and "serial offenders" in Law, Medicine and Accounting not publicly named and shamed to protect hapless victims that these people are known to prey upon but whom the Profession is sworn to serve?? How can these "Professional" Bodies, through deliberate action of suppressing information, not be held accountable for subsequent civil or criminal offences? How can they not have Public Interest as their first Duty of Care?

"Full Disclosure" is proven to work in all aspects of Aviation, so why do these other "professions" insist on still putting the interests of themselves and members ahead of the Public whom they supposedly serve?

My only conclusion, a personal opinion based on the evidence I can find, is:
That like RL, they are rorting the public and they know it...