Complaints against Chartered Private Accountants are investigated by Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand (CAANZ) and are handled by their Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) who determine whether the complaint should be referred to the Disciplinary Tribunal and the Appeals Tribunal/Council. As this is a private organisation and not a part of the Courts hierarchy, the scope of these investigations is limited to beaches of ethics, standards, rules and the By-Laws.

Immediate Action

The first option should be to attempt to resolve the dispute with the Chartered Accountant (CA) which could involve a written letter explaining the dissatisfaction and providing the CA member with an opportunity to apologise or offer a solution. Where a complaint is wholly or partly justified, the member (CA) or firm should take appropriate measures to provide a solution to the problem. These measures could include (but are not limited to):

  • Additional work to correct errors;
  • An apology;
  • Producing requested documents; and
  • A reduction or refund of fees.

However, if this proves frivolous or unsuccessful, a complaint form for the relevant jurisdiction where the member resides can be lodged with the PCC.

Formal Investigation

The complaint form should include relevant identifying information and a logical, easy to follow timeline of events leading to the need for a complaint, including any relevant evidence (e.g. engagement letters, correspondence, and other documents raising concerns about administration of services). Once lodged, an initial review is commenced to determine if: (1) there is a valid complaint to investigate, (2) the matter is within the jurisdiction of investigation, and (3) whether all required documents have been lodged. A complainant may be required to produce further documentation or may be informed of a decision not to investigate. If the PCC decides to investigate, the member (CA) has 14 days to respond and provide their own documentation (if requested). This response is sent to the complainant for comment and the member has a right to reply. This back and forth continues until the PCC has enough information to effectively consider the complaint.

During the consideration stage, more information may be sought by the PCC and a face-to-face meeting may be called with the member and possibly the complainant. The investigation process usually takes between 4-9 months (longer if the complaint is more complex) and 12 months for complaints referred to the Disciplinary Tribunal where the PCC has the onus of proving the case against the member on the balance of probabilities.


As CAANZ has a disciplinary jurisdiction, the consequences pertain to a member’s membership and standing. This body does not have the powers of a court and cannot order damages, compensation or make criminal findings. The PCC and Disciplinary Tribunal have a range of sanctions and powers if a complaint is found to be justified, including:

  • Taking no further action;
  • Issuing a professional reminder or caution to the member;
  • Convening a case conference or adjourning the complaint to obtain further information;
  • Requiring the member to pay the costs;
  • Offering sanctions by consent with the member to be included on the member’s record, including:
    • Being reprimanded or severely reprimanded;
    • Paying a fine;
    • Paying costs;
    • Completing professional development or engage an adviser or consultant; and
    • Publicising the decision;
  • Requiring a quality or practice or other review be undertaken;
  • Referring the complaint to the Disciplinary Tribunal for hearing or apply for interim suspension, which may include the following consequences:
    • Removal from the member register;
    • Suspending the member for up to five years;
    • Monetary penalties;
    • Cancelling or suspending a Certificate of Public Practice;
    • Investigating/reviewing the member’s practice;
    • Requiring the member to complete professional development or engage an adviser or consultant;
    • Censuring the member; and
    • Requiring the member to pay costs.

How can we help?

Investigations by professional disciplinary bodies like the PCC can have serious implications for your career moving forward. Robertson O’Gorman is committed to assisting clients faced with PCC investigations throughout the entire process, including by supporting you during the consideration stage and the making of oral and written submissions at the Tribunal stage.