Malpractice

Introduction

This policy is aimed at our customers, including learners, who are delivering/registered on FIA approved qualifications or units within or outside the UK and who are involved in suspected or actual malpractice/maladministration. It is also for use by our staff to ensure they deal with all malpractice and maladministration investigations in a consistent manner.

It sets out the steps your centre, and learners or other personnel must follow when reporting suspected or actual cases of malpractice/maladministration and our responsibilities in dealing with such cases. It also sets out the procedural steps we will follow when reviewing the cases.

Centre’s Responsibility

It is important that your staff involved in the management, assessment and quality assurance of our qualifications, and your learners, are fully aware of the contents of this policy and that your centre has arrangements in place to prevent and investigate instances of malpractice and maladministration.

A failure to report suspected or actual malpractice/maladministration cases, or have in place effective arrangements to prevent such cases, may lead to sanctions being imposed on your centre (see our Sanctions policy for details of the sanctions that may be imposed).

If you wish to receive guidance/advice from us on how to prevent, investigate, and deal with malpractic and maladministration then please contact us (details below) and we will happily provide you with such advice and/or guidance.

Your centre’s compliance with this policy and how it takes reasonable steps to prevent and/or investigate instances of malpractice and maladministration will be reviewed by the FIA periodically through our ongoing centre monitoring arrangements.

Should an investigation be undertaken into your centre, the head of centre must:

• Respond speedily and openly to all requests relating to the allegation and/or investigation

• Cooperate and ensure their staff cooperate fully with any investigation and/or request for information

Review arrangements

We will review the policy annually5 as part of our annual self-evaluation arrangements and revise it as and when necessary in response to customer and learner feedback, changes in our practices, actions from the regulatory authorities or external agencies, changes in legislation, or trends identified from previous allegations. In addition, this policy may be updated in light of operational feedback to ensure our arrangements for dealing with suspected cases of malpractice and maladministration remain effective.

If you would like to feedback any views please contact us via the details provided at the end of this policy.

Definition of Malpractice

Malpractice is essentially any activity or practice which deliberately contravenes regulations and compromises the integrity of the internal or external assessment process and/or the validity of certificates. Malpractice may include a range of issues from the failure to maintain appropriate records or systems to the deliberate falsification of records in order to claim certificates.

For the purpose of this policy this term also covers misconduct and forms of unnecessary discrimination or bias towards certain individual or groups of learners.

Examples of Malpractice

The categories listed below are examples of centre and learner malpractice. Please note that these examples are not exhaustive and are only intended as guidance on our definition of malpractice:

• Denial of access to premises, records, information, learners and staff to any authorised FIA representative and/or the regulatory authorities

• Failure to carry out internal assessment, internal moderation or internal verification in accordance with our requirements

• Deliberate failure to adhere to our learner registration and certification procedures.

• Deliberate failure to continually adhere to our centre recognition and/or qualification approval requirements or actions assigned to your centre

• Deliberate failure to maintain appropriate auditable records, e.g. certification claims and/or forgery of evidence

• Fraudulent claim for certificates

• The unauthorised use of inappropriate materials/equipment in assessment settings (e.g. mobile phones)

• Intentional withholding of information from us which is critical to maintaining the rigour of quality assurance and standards of qualifications

• Deliberate misuse of our logo and trademarks or misrepresentation of a centre’s relationship  with the FIA and/or its recognition and approval status with the FIA

• Collusion or permitting collusion in exams/assessments

• Learners still working towards qualification after certification claims have been made

• Persistent instances of maladministration within the centre

• Deliberate contravention by a centre and/or its learners of the assessment arrangements we specify for our qualifications

• A loss, theft of, or a breach of confidentiality in, any assessment materials6

• Plagiarism by learners/staff

• Unauthorised amendment, copying or distributing of exam/assessment papers/materials

• Inappropriate assistance to learners by centre staff (e.g. unfairly helping them to pass a unit or qualification)

• Deliberate submission of false information to gain a qualification or unit

• Deliberate failure to adhere to, or to circumnavigate, the requirements of our Reasonable Adjustments and Special Considerations Policy.

• False ID used at the registration stage

• Creation of false records

• Impersonation of a learner for assessment

• Inappropriate use of technology during assessments (e.g. mobile phone)

• Cheating

• Cash for certificates (e.g. the selling of certificates for cash)

• Selling papers/assessment details

• Extortion

• Fraud

• Threatening or abusive behavior that threatens the safety of staff and/or is intended to put undue influence on the outcomes of an assessment/award.

Definition of Maladministration

Maladministration is essentially any activity or practice which results in non-compliance with administrative regulations and requirements and includes the application of persistent mistakes or poor administration within a centre (e.g. inappropriate learner records).

Examples of Maladministration

The categories listed below are examples of centre and learner maladministration. Please note that these examples are not exhaustive and are only intended as guidance on our definition of malpractice:

• Persistent failure to adhere to our learner registration and certification procedures.

• Persistent failure to adhere to our centre recognition and / or qualification requirements and / or associated actions assigned to the centre

• Late learner registrations (both infrequent and persistent)

• Unreasonable delays in responding to requests and/or communications from the FIA

• Inaccurate claim for certificates7

• Failure to maintain appropriate auditable records, e.g. certification claims and/or forgery of evidence

• Withholding of information, by deliberate act or omission, from us which is required to assure the FIA of the centre’s ability to deliver qualifications appropriately

• Misuse of our logo and trademarks or misrepresentation of a centre’s relationship with the FIA and/or its recognition and approval status with the FIA

• Failure to adhere to, or to circumnavigate, the requirements of our Reasonable Adjustments and Special Considerations Policy.

Process for making an allegation of malpractice or maladministration

Anybody who identifies or is made aware of suspected or actual cases of malpractice or maladministration at any time  must immediately notify the FIA. In doing so they should put them in writing/email and enclose appropriate supporting evidence.

All allegations must include (where possible):

• Centre’s name, address and number

• Learner’s name and FIA registration number

• Centre/FIA personnel’s details (name, job role) if they are involved in the case

• Details of the FIA course/qualification affected or nature of the service affected

• Nature of the suspected or actual malpractice and associated dates

• Details and outcome of any initial investigation carried out by the centre or anybody else involved in the case, including any mitigating circumstances

In addition we ask that the person making the allegation declares any personal interest they may have in the matter to us at the outset. If a centre has conducted an initial investigation prior to formally notifying us, the centre should ensure that staff involved in the initial investigation are competent and have no personal interest in the outcome of the investigation. We would expect that such investigations would normally involve the Head of Centre (if there is an investigation into allegations of malpractice or irregularities against the Head of the Centre or the management of the centre then such investigations should be carried out by the Chair of the Governing Body of the centre or his/her nominee). However, it is important to note that in all instances the centre must immediately notify us if they suspect malpractice or maladministration has occurred as we have a responsibility to the regulatory authorities to ensure that all investigations are carried out rigorously and effectively.

In all cases of suspected malpractice and maladministration reported to us we’ll protect the identity of the ‘informant’ in accordance with our duty of confidentiality and/or any other legal duty.

Confidentiality and whistle blowing

Sometimes a person making an allegation of malpractice or maladministration may wish to remain anonymous. Although it is always preferable to reveal your identity and contact details to us and if you are concerned about possible adverse consequences request us not to divulge your identity.

While we are prepared to investigate issues which are reported to us anonymously we shall always tryto confirm an allegation by means of a separate investigation before taking up the matter with those to which the allegation relates. We will consider each disclosure of information sensitively and carefully and decide upon an appropriate response.

We will always aim to keep a whistleblower’s identify confidential where asked to do so although we cannot guarantee this and we may need to disclose your identity to:

• The police, fraud prevention agencies or other law enforcement agencies (to investigate or prevent crime, including fraud)

• The courts (in connection with court proceedings) another person to whom we are required by law to disclose your identity.

• Other third parties where we consider it necessary to do so (e.g. the regulator Ofqual). The investigator(s) assigned to review the allegation will not reveal the whistleblower’s identity unless the whistleblower agrees or it is absolutely necessary for the purposes of the investigation (as noted above). The investigator(s) will advise the whistleblower if it becomes necessary to reveal their identity against their wishes.

A whistleblower should also recognise that he or she may be identifiable by others due to the nature or circumstances of the disclosure (eg the party which the allegation is made against may manage to identify possible sources of disclosure without such details being disclosed to them).

Once a concern has been raised we have a duty to pursue the matter. It will not be possible to prevent the matter being investigated by subsequently withdrawing their concern as we are obliged by the regulators to follow-up and investigate allegations of malpractice or maladministration.

In all cases, we will keep you updated as to how we have progressed the allegation (e.g. we have undertaken an investigation) and the whistle-blower will have the opportunity to raise any concerns about the way the investigation is being conducted with the investigator(s). However, we won’t disclose details of all of the investigation activities and it may not be appropriate for us to disclose full details of the outcomes of the investigation due to confidentiality or legal reasons (e.g. disclose full details on the action that may be taken against the parties concerned). While we cannot guarantee that we will disclose all matters in the way that you might wish, we will strive to handle the matter fairly and properly.

Please see our Whistleblowing Policy for further information in relation to our whistleblowing arrangements.

Responsibility for the investigation

In accordance with regulatory requirements all suspected cases of maladministration and malpractice will be examined promptly by the FIA to establish if malpractice or maladministration has occurred and will take all reasonable steps to prevent any adverse effect from occurring as defined by the regulator

All suspected cases of malpractice and maladministration will be passed to our AO Manager and we’ll acknowledge receipt, as appropriate, to external parties within 48 hours.

Our AO Manager will be responsible for ensuring the investigation is carried out in a prompt and effective manner. In accordance with the procedures in this policy he will allocate a relevant member of staff to lead the investigation and establish whether or not the malpractice or maladministration has occurred, and review any supporting evidence received or gathered by the FIA. If the AO Manager has an involvement in the incident under investigation they will not be responsible for allocating a member of staff to carry out the investigation or for overseeing and managing the investigation.

At all times we will ensure that FIA personnel assigned to the investigation have the appropriate level of training and competence13 and they have had no previous involvement or personal interest in the matter.

Notifying relevant parties

In all cases we will tell the person who made the allegation who will be handling the matter, how they can contact them, what further assistance we may need from them and agree a timetable for feedback (see the above section on ‘Confidentiality and whistleblowing for possible limitations in relation to the feedback and the section below, Investigation timelines and summary process, for details of our anticipated response times).

In cases of suspected or actual malpractice, we will notify the Head of the Centre involved in the allegation and that we will be investigating the matter14 (except when the head of centre or management is under investigation; in which case communication may be with the Chair of Governors, Local Authority officials or other appropriate authorities). In the case of learner malpractice, we may ask your centre to investigate the issue in liaison with our own personnel, we will only ask the centre to investigate the matter where we have confidence that the investigation will be prompt, thorough, independent and effective.

In all cases we may withhold details of the person making the allegation if to do so would breach a duty of confidentiality or any other legal duty.

We may engage and communicate directly with members of centre staff who have been accused of malpractice if appropriate (e.g. the staff member is no longer employed by the centre) and/or communicate directly with a learner or their representative (e.g. if there is a contradiction in the evidence provided during an investigation or where the centre is suspected of being involved in malpractice).

Where applicable, our CEO (as the nominated responsible person to the regulators) will inform the appropriate regulatory authorities if we believe there has been an incident of malpractice or maladministration which could either invalidate the award of a qualification or if it could affect another awarding organisation.

Where the allegation may affect another awarding organisation and their provision we will also inform them in accordance with the regulatory requirements and obligations imposed on the FIA by the regulator. If we do not know the details of organisations that might be affected we will ask Ofqual to help us identify relevant parties that should be informed. If fraud is suspected and/or identified we may also notify the police.

Investigation timelines and summary process

We aim to action and resolve all stages of the investigation within 10 working days of receipt of the allegation. Please note that in some cases the investigation may take longer; for example, if a centre visit is required. In such instances, we’ll advise all parties concerned of the likely revised timescale.

The fundamental principle of all investigations is to conduct them in a fair, reasonable and legal manner, ensuring that all relevant evidence is considered without bias. In doing so investigations will be based around the following broad objectives:

• To establish the facts relating to allegations/complaints in order to determine whether any irregularities have occurred.

• To identify the cause of the irregularities and those involved.

• To establish the scale of the irregularities.

• To evaluate any action already taken by the centre.

• To determine whether remedial action is required to reduce the risk to current registered learners and to preserve the integrity of the qualification.

• To ascertain whether any action is required in respect of certificates already issued.

• To obtain clear evidence to support any sanctions to be applied to the centre, and/or to members of staff, in accordance with our Sanctions Policy.

• To identify any adverse patterns or trends.

In carrying out any investigation we will be sensitive to the effect on, and reputation of, a centre and/or those members of staff who may be the subject to investigation. We will strive to ensure that the investigation is carried out as confidentially as possible and the organisation/person who is the subject of the allegation will have the opportunity to raise any issues both about the proposed approach and the conduct of the investigation with the investigator(s) during the investigation.

The investigation may involve a request for further information from relevant parties and/or interviews with personnel involved in the investigation. In any interviews carried out with the person(s) accused ofmalpractice/maladministration they can choose to be accompanied by a work colleague, trade union representative, or other party. In addition, we will:

• Ensure all material collected as part of an investigation is kept secure. All records and originaldocumentation concerning a completed investigation that ultimately leads to sanctions against acentre will be retained for a period of not less than five years. If an investigation leads to invalidation of certificates, or criminal or civil prosecution, all records and original documentation relating to the case will be retained until the case and any appeals have been heard and for five years thereafter.

• Expect all parties, who are either directly or indirectly involved in the investigation, to fully cooperate with us. Either at notification of a suspected or actual case of malpractice or maladministration and/or at any time during the investigation, we reserve the right to impose sanctions on the centre in accordance with our Sanctions Policy in order to protect the interests of learners and the integrity of the qualifications.

We also reserve the right to withhold a learner’s, and/or cohort’s, results for all the course/qualifications and/or units they are studying at the time of the notification or investigation of suspected or actual malpractice/maladministration.

If appropriate, we may find that the complexity of a case or a lack of cooperation from a centre means that we are unable to complete an investigation. In such circumstances we will consult the relevant regulatory authority in order to determine how best to progress the matter.

Where a member of the AO or Centre's staff is under investigation we may suspend them or move them to other duties until the investigation is complete.

Throughout the investigation our AO Manager will be responsible for overseeing the work of the investigation team to ensure that due process is being followed, appropriate evidence has been gathered and reviewed and for liaising with and keeping informed relevant external parties.

Investigation report

If we believe there is sufficient evidence to implicate an individual/centre in malpractice and/or maladministration we will:

• Inform them (preferably in writing) of the allegation

• Provided them with details of the evidence we found to support our judgment

• Inform them of the possible consequences

• Inform them that information in relation to the allegation and investigation may be, or has been, shared with the regulators and other relevant bodies (e.g. police)

• Provided them with an opportunity to consider and respond to the allegation and our findings

• Inform them of our Appeals policy should they wish to appeal against our decision

After an investigation, we will produce a draft report for the parties concerned to check the factual accuracy where appropriate. Any subsequent amendments will be agreed between the parties concerned and ourselves. The report will cover the following areas:

• Identify where the breach, if any, occurred.

• Confirm the facts of the case (and any mitigating factors if relevant)

• Identify who is responsible for the breach (if any)

• Contain supporting evidence where appropriate (e.g. written statements)

• Confirm an appropriate level of remedial action to be applied.

We will make the final report available to the parties concerned and to the regulatory authorities and other external agencies as required.

If it was an independent/third party that notified us of the suspected or actual case of malpractice, we’ll also inform them of the outcome, normally within 10 working days of making our decision. In doing so we may withhold some details if to disclose such information would breach a duty of confidentiality or any other legal duty

If it’s an internal investigation against a member of our staff the report will be agreed by the FIA General Manager with the relevant internal managers and appropriate internal disciplinary procedures will be implemented. In some circumstances the police or other external authorities may need to be alerted.

Investigation outcomes

If the investigation confirms that malpractice or maladministration has taken place we will consider what action to take to:

• Minimise the risk to the integrity of certification now and in the future.

• Maintain public confidence in the delivery and awarding of qualifications.

• Discourage others from carrying out similar instances of malpractice or maladministration.

• Ensure there has been no gain from compromising our standards.

The action we may take include (this list is indicative only and is not meant to form an exhaustive list):

• Impose actions in relation to your centre with specified deadlines in order to address the instance of malpractice/maladministration and to prevent it from reoccurring such as:

o Undertaking additional visits to a centre to provide them with a greater level of support and/or monitoring depending on their needs and performance.

o Requiring specific centre staff to undergo additional training and/or scrutiny by thecentre if there are concerns about their ability to undertake their role in the delivery of AO qualifications effectively.

o Not permitting specific centre staff to be involved in the delivery or assessment of FIA qualifications (e.g. not permitting an individual to invigilate AO examinations or assessments)

o Altering the way, and the period in which, centres receive examination/assessment materials from the AO, if there are concerns around their ability to maintain the security and confidentiality of such materials.

o Appointing independent invigilators to observe an exam at the centre if there are concerns around the centre’s arrangements and/or the centre is unable to resource particular exams.

• Impose sanctions on your centre, if so these will be communicated to you in accordance with our sanctions policy along with the rationale for the sanction(s) selected.

• Take action against learners in relation to maladministration or malpractice such as some or all of the following (which may be communicated to the learner by the AO and/or the learner’s centre):

o Issuing a written warning that if the offence is repeated further action may be taken

o Loss of all marks/credits for the related work/unit

o Disqualification from the unit(s)/qualification

o Placing a ban from taking any further qualifications with us (e.g. for a set period of time)

• In cases where certificates are deemed to be invalid, inform your centre concerned and the

regulatory authorities why they’re invalid and any action to be taken for reassessment and/or for the withdrawal of the certificates. We’ll also ask the centre to let the affected learners know the action we’re taking and that their original certificates are invalid and ask the centre, where possible, to return the invalid certificates to the FIA. We’ll also amend our database so that duplicates of the invalid certificates cannot be issued, we will expect the centre to amend their records to show that the original awards are invalid.

• Amend aspects of our qualification development, delivery and awarding arrangements and if required assessment and/or monitoring arrangements and associated guidance to prevent the issue from reoccurring.

• Inform relevant third parties (e.g. funding bodies) of our findings in case they need to take relevant action in relation to the centre. In proven cases of malpractice and/or maladministration by a centre the FIA reserves the right to charge the centre for any re-sits and reissuing of certificates and/or additional Compliance Manager visits.

In addition, to the above the AO Manager will record any lessons learnt from the investigation and passthese onto relevant internal colleagues to help the FIA prevent the same instance of maladministration or malpractice from reoccurring.

If the relevant party(ies) wish to appeal against our decision to impose sanctions, please refer to our Appeals Policy. If after you have exhausted our Appeals arrangements and you are still unsatisfied with the outcomes, you can complain/appeal directly to the relevant regulatory authority for the qualification (eg Ofqual in England or SQA in Scotland) In the case of Scottish based complaints to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO) if you feel that matter has not been appropriately addressed and considered by FIA AO and then the regulator in Scotland the SQA – although please note SPSO will not consider complaints about academic decisions, such as the outcome of an assessment. These types of complaints are considered by the SPSO as an appeal and would therefore be considered through FIA’s appeals processes (see your Appeals Policy for further details).

Contact us

If you’ve any queries about the contents of the policy, please contact the AO Manager on 020 3166 5002 or via email on ao@fia.uk.com.

© Fire Industry Association AO