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Introduction

In January 2014, Ontario’s Office of the Fairness Commissioner (OFC) performed a targeted assessment of the way Certified General Accounts of Ontario (CGA Ontario) registers people who apply for a licence to practise in Ontario, to ensure that the registration practices are fair and continue to improve.

Assessment is one of the Fairness Commissioner's mandated roles under the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act (FARPACTA).

Assessment Cycle

To hold regulatory bodies accountable for continuous improvement, the OFC assesses their licensing practices using a two-year assessment cycle.

Assessment cycles alternate between full assessments and targeted assessments:

  • Full assessments address all specific and general duties described in FARPACTA.
  • Targeted assessments focus on the areas where the OFC made recommendations in the previous full assessment.

This approach establishes continuity between the assessment cycles.

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Focus of This Assessment and Report

The January 2014 targeted assessment of CGA Ontario focused on the areas where the OFC made recommendations in the full assessment it completed in November 2011.

The OFC’s detailed report captures the results of the targeted assessment. The assessment summary provides the following key information from the detailed report:

  • duties that were assessed
  • an overview of assessment outcomes for specific-duty practices
  • an overview of comments related to the general duty
  • commendable practices
  • recommendations

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Availability of Report

The OFC encourages CGA Ontario to provide the detailed report to its staff, council members, the public, and other interested parties.

To receive a copy of the detailed report, click here.

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Assessment Methods

Assessments are based on the Registration Practices Assessment Guide – For Regulated Professions and Trades. The guide presents registration practices relating to the specific duties and general duty in FARPACTA.

A regulatory body’s practices can be measured against FARPACTA’s specific duties in a straightforward way. However, the general duty is broad, and the principles it mentions (transparency, objectivity, impartiality and fairness) are not defined in the legislation.

As a result, the specific-duty and general-duty obligations are assessed differently (see the Strategy for Continuous Improvement of Registration Practices).

Specific Duties

The OFC can clearly determine whether a regulatory body demonstrates the specific-duty practices in the assessment guide. Therefore, for each specific-duty practice, the OFC provides one of the following assessment outcomes:

  • Demonstrated – all required elements of the practice are present or addressed
  • Partially Demonstrated – some but not all required elements are present or addressed
  • Not Demonstrated – none of the required elements are present or addressed
  • Not Applicable – this practice does not apply to this regulatory body

General Duty

Because there are many ways that a regulatory body can demonstrate that its practices, overall, are meeting the principles of the general duty, the OFC makes assessment comments for the general duty, rather than identifying assessment outcomes. For the same reason, assessment comments are made by principle, rather than by practice.

For information about the OFC’s interpretations of the general-duty principles and the practices that the OFC uses as a guideline for assessment, see the Registration Practices Assessment Guide – For Regulated Professions and Trades.

Commendable Practices and Recommendations

Where applicable, the OFC identifies commendable practices or recommendations for improvement related to the specific duties and general duty.

Sources

Assessment outcomes, comments, and commendable practices and recommendations are based on information provided by the regulatory body. The OFC relies on the accuracy of this information to produce the assessment report. The OFC compiles registration information from sources such as the following:

  • Fair Registration Practices Reports, audits, Entry-to-Practice Review Reports, annual meetings
  • the regulatory body’s:
    • website
    • policies, procedures, guidelines and related documentation templates for communication with applicants
    • regulations and bylaws
    • internal auditing and reporting mechanisms
    • third-party agreements and related monitoring or reporting documentation
    • qualifications assessments and related documentation
  • targeted questions/requests for evidence that the regulatory body demonstrates a practice or principle

For more information  about the assessment cycle, assessment process, and legislative obligations, see the Strategy for Continuous Improvement of Registration Practices.

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Assessment Summary

Specific Duties

Specific duties assessed

As a result of the recommendations made in the full assessment completed in November 2011, CGA Ontario has been assessed in the area(s) marked below:

None Unchecked
Information for Applicants Unchecked
Timely Decisions, Responses and Reasons Unchecked
Internal Review or Appeal Unchecked
Information on Appeal Rights Unchecked
Documentation of Qualifications Checked
Assessment of Qualifications Unchecked
Training Checked
Access to Records Unchecked

Outcomes

CGA Ontario has demonstrated all of the practices in the following specific-duty area(s):

  • Documentation of Qualifications
  • Training

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General Duty

Assessment Method

CGA Ontario selected the method marked below for the assessing of its adherence to the general-duty principles, and informed the OFC:

a. OFC assesses based on the practices listed in the assessment guide Checked
b. Regulatory body self-assesses based on the practices in the assessment guide Unchecked
c. Regulatory body self-assesses using a system-based approach, in which it explains what it does to ensure that its practices are adhering to the general-duty principles Unchecked

Principles assessed

As a result of the recommendations made in the full assessment completed in November 2011, CGA Ontario has been assessed on the principle(s) marked below:

None Unchecked
Transparency Checked
Objectivity Unchecked
Impartiality Checked
Fairness Unchecked

Comments

The OFC found that since the last assessment, Certified General Accountants of Ontario (CGA Ontario) has taken some additional measures to ensure a transparent and impartial registration process. The OFC identified three areas where CGA Ontario needs to take further steps to ensure transparency and impartiality (see the Recommendations section below).

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Commendable Practices

A commendable practice is a program, activity or strategy that goes beyond the minimum standards set by the OFC assessment guides, considering the regulatory body’s resources and profession-specific or trade-specific context. Commendable practices may or may not have potential for transferability to another regulatory body.

CGA Ontario is demonstrating commendable practices in the following area(s).

Transparency

  • implementing a new telephone system that immediately directs callers to an adviser who can address their specific inquiries. This new approach enables applicants to have instant access to relevant information at the time and in the way needed. It also enables CGA Ontario to use its resources more effectively and efficiently. 
  • providing the results of the transcript evaluation reports by email rather than regular mail. This reduces CGA Ontario’s mailing costs while improving the turnaround time for communicating its assessment decisions to applicants. The transcript evaluation report prompts the applicant about next steps in the enrolment process and shows transfer credits that have been granted, the status of the applicant’s degree requirement, recommended courses, and dates for enrolment. 
  • launching the Career Resource Centre in September 2012. This new resource eases students’ transition to employment, by giving them access to career webinars and workshops, job boards, and an online career-management tool.
  • launching the Communication Skills for Professionals: Interactive Online Bridging Project for CGA Ontario. This program helps internationally educated professionals who are enrolled in the CGA program of professional studies to overcome potential challenges they may encounter while pursuing the CGA designation. For example:
    • Some internationally educated students may have difficulties passing certain components of the final exam for the CGA program of professional studies because they need to enhance their communication skills. Module one of the program helps students address these challenges through training in communication and business culture.
    • All students must meet the professional experience requirement before obtaining the CGA designation. The modules on communication and business culture training, career development, job search, and mentoring provide internationally educated students with the competencies they need in order to obtain employment and advance in their professional accounting careers.
  • The Communications Skills for Professionals program is offered free of charge and is delivered online. As a result, it provides remote access to students with limited resources and to those who live at a distance.

Impartiality

  • implementing an audit process for transcript evaluations. Each month, the manager of admissions and registration conducts a random audit of transcript evaluations. Audit results are shared with the assessment team and used to inform training opportunities for assessors. CGA Ontario continues to augment the audit program to enhance its scope and effectiveness.
  • developing a new online assessment tool that allows applicants to preview the credits they are eligible to receive before completing their application and paying an application fee. This approach minimizes the potential for bias, as the system calculates eligible exemptions based on pre-programmed criteria and in accordance with the information that applicants have inputted. 
  • recording the name of the original assessor on internal documentation. This allows CGA Ontario to quickly determine if members of the academic credential panel have a potential conflict of interest when requests for internal review are brought forward to the panel. If a conflict is identified, the individuals with the conflict do not participate in the review. All conflicts of interest are identified and documented. The manager of admissions and registration, who oversees the initial assessment, does not participate in the internal review process. Additional managers are trained on the process and may complete the review when required.
  • enabling applicants who are denied registration to submit an appeal to the vice president of student services. If a conflict of interest is identified, the senior vice president of operations participates in the appeal process. This administrative policy has been approved by the board of directors and helps prevent a potential for bias.
  • changing the composition of the academic credentials panel to include:
    • a manager who is a certified general accountant
    • a coordinator who has specific knowledge related to domestic and international programs and policies
    • This composition ensures that the panel has a detailed understanding of the structure and policies of the CGA program of professional studies, and can provide an unbiased and well-informed review.
  • These improved procedures provide for a more objective and impartial assessment and internal review process.

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Recommendations

CGA Ontario should improve in the following areas.

Transparency

Status
  • On the CGA Ontario website, inform applicants about all costs that are related to the registration process (including membership dues), so that applicants can approximate the total cost of the registration process.*
Checked
July 2014

Impartiality

 
  • Ensure that written guidelines are in place directing assessors and decision-makers about potential biases or risks to impartiality in the assessment or decision-making process:
Checked
July 2014
  • Record what constitutes a bias (e.g., preconceived notions about the merits of the application, conflict of interest, lack of understanding of issues related to diversity, preconceived notions about any individual or groups of individuals, a basis for discrimination)
 
  • Explain procedures to be followed where potential for bias is identified.
 
  • Include this information in training material for all assessors and decision-makers (including staff and board members).
 
  • Identify and record positions that require training in the following: a) anti-discrimination, b) cultural diversity, and c) the objectives of FARPACTA. Ensure that the training for these positions covers all three topics.
Checked
July 2014

* CGA Ontario implemented all recommendations marked with an asterisk before the OFC completed its assessment.

 
Blank = Implementation is in progress.
Checked = Recommendation is implemented.
Acceptable alternative = Regulator implements acceptable alternative to this recommendation.

Assessment History

In the previous assessment, the OFC identified eight recommendations for this regulatory body.

They have all been implemented.

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