Thu | Sep 23, 2021

Sanctioned accountant casts corruption claim at watchdog

Published:Wednesday | July 21, 2021 | 12:12 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter

A chartered accountant who was recently sanctioned by the Public Accountancy Board (PAB) for professional misconduct has written to Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke alleging widespread corruption on the board. Dion Staple, managing director of DGS...

A chartered accountant who was recently sanctioned by the Public Accountancy Board (PAB) for professional misconduct has written to Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke alleging widespread corruption on the board.

Dion Staple, managing director of DGS Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors, who was recently slapped with a $2.5-million fine and a one-year suspension of his public accountant registration in March, has also asked the minister to intervene and to have him reinstated.

Further, Staple, who has accused the board of committing several breaches in its handling of the matter, is also seeking compensation from the Government for damage to its company reputation.

The sanctions against Staple arose after a complaint by popular television host Susan Simes, who had reported the company for professional misconduct stemming from an incident in which tax payments for Simes’ companies were sent to another taxpayer. The payments amounted to a little over $1 million.

Simes, in her capacity as managing director for Simber Production Limited and SMS Productions Limited, had contracted the accounting firm to handle the filing of tax and corporate returns and payment, among other things, for both companies.

However, according to the PAB in a notice published in the Gazette, the board found “Staple guilty of the charge that in the performance of his professional duties, he is guilty of such actions, default, and conduct discreditable to the profession”.

Staple was also found guilty of not acting diligently in accordance with the requisite technical and professional standards and also for not behaving in a professional manner.

“Mr Staple did not account to his client for her assets - cheques given to his employee and which should have been lodged to the TAJ (Tax Administration Jamaica] for the benefit of the client was lodged to the account of another taxpayer altogether,” PAB also found.

According to the board, Staple had provided Simes with a table outlining how the cheques had been paid, but a review showed that some were paid to the account of another taxpayer.

“A default, therefore, was the lack of appropriate action by Mr Staple in trying to remedy the glaring error with the tax authority, save for the preparation of an initial letter from the client to the tax authority,” it said further in the notice.

NO RESOLUTION

Additionally, the PAB did not resolve the dispute with the production companies despite admitting liability

The board also noted that Staple, in a letter sent in March 2018 to Simes, had informed her that there was a case of misappropriation at his office after preparing the letter, which advised TAJ of the fraud, had not contacted Simes since June.

The board further noted in the Gazette that following an initial virtual meeting with both Simes and Staple, the latter was invited to a disciplinary hearing on January 7 but instead of attending requested a postponement of the hearing noting on the basis that he intends to go to the Supreme Court to get a ruling on the validity of the board’s proceedings, but the request was refused.

Following the ruling, Staple wrote to the minister in a letter dated May 20.

In a copy of the letter obtained by The Gleaner, Staple said, “I was unfairly and illegally sanctioned which I find very oppressive, especially coming from the Government. The GOJ/PAB is also abusing its discretionary powers, including removing practitioners from the register of PAB for minor and moderate offences such as failing audit practice monitoring.

“This punitive sanction for this failure has never been carried out by any other country as this punishment is not commensurate with the offence,” he added.

Staple, in the letter, accused the Government of knowingly and deliberately destroying a registered public accountant (RPA) livelihood by carrying out unfair and illegal activities.

“The GOJ/PAB wants the RPAs to go to the Court of Appeal to challenge its unfair and illegal activities knowing that by the time those matters are litigated, RPAs would have already been financially destroyed and may not even have the funds to pay an attorney for good representation,” he added.

Among the alleged illegal and unfair PAB practices listed by Staple are the sanctioning of RPAs without evidence, failing to give RPAs opportunities to attend fair disciplinary hearings, holding private disciplinary hearings, refusing to provide minutes of private hearings that may identify irregularities, among other issues.

The finance minister, up to press time on Tuesday, was unable to confirm whether the letter was received.

Staple, through his lawyer, Marlon Bennett, had also written to the PAB advising the board that it had no authority under the Public Accountancy Act to sanction his client for tax services, as the act only speaks to accountancy.

Bennett had also pointed that the Rules of Professional Conduct under which his client was found guilty were never promulgated and ratified, as they were never gazetted.

“What you have seen published in the Gazette is a corrupt attempt to execute long-standing threats of my destruction by powerful people in the accounting industry,” Staple told The Gleaner on Tuesday.

According to Staple, in his defence, Simes, at the time when the infraction was committed, had been dealing with Patrick Galbrait, a former director who was in charge of the tax department and it was that person who had brought the infraction to his attention.

Staple said that a former employee had intercepted her tax return and payment.

That employee, Staple said, had amended Simes’ returns to a lower figure and had applied the difference to another person’s account.

Staple said the employee who was fired had confessed but Simes had refused to give the police a statement.

According to Staple, the employee had transferred $1.6 million from Simes’ funds but had returned almost $600,000, but disappeared after.

After the fraud was uncovered, Staple said he prepared a letter in August 2018 for Simes to take to TAJ to reclaim her money, but she waited until October 18 to submit the letter and made no attempts to contact the firm since.

In the meantime, Staple has also filed a complaint to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaicans (ICAJ) against four of the members of the PAB who form the board’s disciplinary committee.

Staple has asked the ICAJ to investigate Linval Freeman, Cynthia Lawrence, Leighton McKnight and Eric Scott pertaining to a report the committee had prepared in the matter with Simes.

ICAJ President Sixto Coy told The Gleaner said he is aware of the request and that it has been turned over to the institute’s investigative committee.

But at the same time, Coy said, “He is just making scurrilous claims trying to get attention.”

However, Simes and her attorney-at-law, Andrea Scarlett-Lozer, both declined comment.

Compton Rodney, PAB registrar, said the board has informed Staple of his right to appeal and declined further comment.

Rodney said Staple is entitled to make his claims of corruption.