The FPA has defended its disciplinary process but admitted it could have expedited the client complaint against former member and TV show host Sam Henderson.
Counsel assisting the royal commission Rowena Orr QC questioned the FPA’s disciplinary procedures and in particular the role of the complainant and the granting of confidentiality to members undergoing a disciplinary hearing by the association’s Conduct Review Commission.
The questions stemmed from the case of Sam Henderson, a former member who has a complaint filed against him by former client and Fair Work commissioner Donna McKenna.
Ms Orr also questioned whether Mr Henderson – who once MC'd the FPA national congress and invited FPA chief executive Dante De Gori to appear on his Sky News Business television program on multiple occasions – received preferential treatment from the association, a charge echoed by a former member in the days following the testimony.
In its supplementary submission to the royal commission, the FPA has defended its dispciplinary process, including the two contentious issues of member confidentiality and complainant testimony.
“There is nothing unorthodox in not affording a right to a complainant be heard, as an advocate, in respect of professional disciplinary proceedings invoked in response to a complaint,” the submission states, going on to suggest that legal and accounting industry organisations have similar protocols.
Further, the association says “mandatory publication of the name of an FPA member” in disciplinary proceedings may not assist its “protective purpose” to serve the public interest.
The submission makes clear that Mr Henderson’s disciplinary proceedings have not yet concluded and that the FPA is considering “revised terms for summary disposal”.
It goes on to admit the Henderson case could have been addressed in a more timely manner and that its management of disciplinary matters could be better.
“FPA accepts that the period of time that has been taken to date in dealing with the complaint by Ms McKenna in relation to Mr Henderson’s conduct is unduly protracted,” the submission states.
“FPA accepts that there is identifiable scope for improvement in the case management of the disciplinary process, including in particular by the imposition of more onerous time limitations on steps to be taken by the parties in the course of the investigation process and disciplinary proceedings that could improve the efficiency of the process without adversely affecting its efficacy.”
The submission blames “limited resources” for the shortfall in management quality.
A full list of the submissions made to the royal commission can be read here: https://www.ifa.com.au/news/25505-royal-commission-round-two-responses-released
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