Sanctions

The Policy Committee agreed from its inception to impose the minimum number of rules on Member Groups. However, the corollary of that is that these are important and must be complied with. 

Resolution of problems is best achieved by amicable exchanges but it is essential that Member Group committees understand that  rules can and will be enforced.

Because of their collective role as the first point of contact, most transgressions are likely to be initially identified by members of the Member Groups Team (MGT). Where a problem is identified the following steps will be taken:

  1. A member of the MGT will approach the Member Group and explain the issue to committee member, normally the Chair or the Treasurer (posts held by BCS professional members). The objective is to resolve the issue by explaining clearly which rule (or rules) are not being complied with and requesting the Member Group to make changes.
  2. If the group do not agree to comply the matter will be referred to the Membership Board Policy Committee (MBPC). If the Chair of the MBPC is unable to make progress by personal contact, the Chair of MBPC will seek agreement from MBPC members to write formally to the Member Group on behalf of the MBPC. The letter will explain that the Member Group is in breach of the rules and ask them to confirm their compliance in writing by a specified date. The letter will explain the result of continued non-compliance. 

Sanctions available to the MBPC include use of the BCS code of conduct where an individual is at fault and where the Member Group is at fault:

  • Suspending funding (if funding is suspended any expenditure incurred by the MG would be unauthorised and any officers authorising the expenditure could be jointly liable for the money spent. )
  • Suspending or closing the Member Group

Comments

Suspending Funding

In my opinion this is almost impossible to enforce. It would need to ensure that the funding was only undertaken after the MBPC letter had been sent (and received) and that in itself would be difficult as an invoice date would not be conclusive. As BCS pays all invoices directly now and these are sent directly to BCS any non payment would result in BCS being the subject of any claim for payment not the individuals of the member group, only BCS has any claim against the member group officers. I feel the Code of Conduct is again the main tool for enforcement and therefore and infringement would need to invoke the disciplinary process but I don't feel that this would recoup any of the spending of the Member group.

Suspending or closing the Member Group

As how this would need to be undertaken been considered? In my opinion, in order to ensure no further expenditure is undertaken by the group, all suppliers of that group would need to be informed of its closure and that BCS would therefore no longer be liable for any of its expenditure. This would make it difficult to undertake and create adverse publicity for the BCS.

Is the only issue the sanction?

This response is on the assumption that the only issue is that the sanctions are unrealistic.

By the time the process outlined has been followed the Committee would need to be behaving in a completely irresponsible manner for the sanctions to be enforced. If a group is adamant about not obeying the rules it seems only sensible to have some sanction.

I would expect that if the Committee are told they have no authority to make expenditure on behalf of the BCS then they should expect the BCS to refuse to accept any invoices for commitments made after they are aware of the situation. Is there a better way to explain that?

Both sanctions will involve members of the Membership Board (MB) outside the MBPC, whilst not an appeal process I'd be surprised if the MB accepted MBPC recommendations of this nature without a strong case.

Peter Buchanan (as chair of the Membership Board Policy Committee)

Refusal to Accept Invoices

While I agree there needs to be a form of sanction I feel that it does need to be credible and I don't feel this is. Yes, they should expect BCS to refuse to pay invoices but that is not the issue. I don't think it would be in the best interest of BCS to do that. The issues is between BCS and one of its committee not the external supplier but not paying an invoice makes it an issue between the supplier and BCS. The does two things to me a) shifts focus away from the root cause and b) it brings the issue into the public domain. Would this not imply BCS would be breaking one of it's own rules? I really think the sanction needs to be different so that all remains 'in house'.

Refusal to accept invoices

Let's accept that by the time we get here all of the Member Group committee will be well aware they are issuing invoices that the BCS will not pay. I'm pushed to see a scenario where a professional member of the BCS would do this, but as I've said before this a final backstop not a place we expect to get to. We are hoping that the presence of the sanction will stop anyone (bar a fool) committing to a service from a third party supplier in such circumstances.

Refusal to Accept Invoices

I agree we should never get to this point, but that to me re enforces that this rule needs to be revised or removed. I don't see the point in agreeing it is not a good rule but because it will never be used leaving it in as a 'back stop'. A better one would be that a sanction would be established appropriate to the situation by the Disciplinary Committee or the Trustees at that time.

some misunderstanding

I'm not saying it is a bad rule, rather that I don't expect it to be needed. It may well be that the presence of such a penal sanction will prevent intransigent and irresponsible behaviour, let's hope so.

I've considered the Disciplinary Committee to be approporiate to individuals that break the Code of Conduct, these rules are in place for Member Groups. I've not explored whether the Disciplinary Committee would wish to handle areas where Member Groups break these rules.

Some Misunderstanding

Interesting, I had not thought that the Disciplinary Committee (DC) would not be involved with Member Groups. Just a thought though, if a Member Group did reach this stage would not the individual members of the group be under DC investigation and penalty? If so maybe that would be a better way of handling this type of situation as I still feel that there is nothing BCS can do to a Member group that would not reflect badly on itself outside of BCS.

Are sanctions the only solution?

The rule reads as if the only solution is to head directly towards sanctions. A professional body has more approaches in its toolkit ... mediation or acknowledgeing that the rules didn't anticipate every eventuality and a change is approrpiate are just two alternatives to consider early in the process.

The two sanctions proposed are drastic options. Other options might include keeping the group alive and replacing one or more committee mmebers. The group is more than its committee members.

The process has several steps ... can we envisage circumstances where immediate intervention would be needed?

Could we consider a more adaptable approach to erring groups, backed, perhaps by more of the business case for this rule?

Having added several thoughts my final one should be that we ought all to play our parts professionally and this rule ought never be needed.

Sanctions are a backstop

We had hoped that talking to the Members Groups Team and if necessary the Chair of the MBPC would provide the opportunity for most situations to be amicably resolved. Where a rule has unintended consequences we would not implement sanctions but revisit the rules.

I'd envisage the whole committee being informed there is a problem and as you suggest they might well choose to remove the member(s) causing difficulties. We really want the Member Group committee to resolve the situation themselves.

If a Member Group is absolutely adamant they will not bend and the situation is serious we do need some form of sanction. Let's say a group has no BCS members on the committee and chooses to use the group to simply promote their own businesses the sanctions would make sense. NB We deliberately used the word "include" so that weaker sanctions could be used.

I like you expect to see all Member Group committee members to behave professionally, the rules are to guide them and the sanctions a hopefully never used backstop.