Arb panel finds practitioner guilty of unacceptable professional conduct for pro-bono work

An architect has been reprimanded for unacceptable professional conduct after a disagreement over pro-bono work carried out for a Cheshire mosque.

Ghassan Kamha of Manchester-based Ghassan Kamha & Partners was the subject of a complaint from the CMA Welfare Trust, which operates a mosque and other facilities for the Muslim community in Cheadle.

As part of the complaint, it emerged that Kamha had failed to clearly set out terms of engagement in writing with his clients, contrary to Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code.

The Architects Registration Board’s Professional Conduct Committee heard that Kamha had been asked by the CMA trustees to help with issues arising from the withdrawal of a planning application for the development of the mosque and the creation of new planning application.

It said that while Kamha had agreed to help on a pro-bono basis, the extent of the work to be done had become the subject of dispute, and Khama was told the trust planned to engage another architect and was urged to submit an invoice for his work.

The panel heard that Kamha had handed in an invoice for £36,000, which the trust subsequently refused to pay on the basis that no formal terms of engagement had been set out in writing.

Khama accepted that a letter of engagement had not been sent to the trust, but said this was “due to the circumstances of the project”. He denied being guilty of unacceptable conduct in relation to the matter.

However the PCC said that regardless of Kamha’s desire to assist the trust on an informal basis, there was a “professional obligation at the heart of every relationship between client and architect, whether paid or not, to set out clearly the terms covered”.

“His failure to adhere to this professional obligation, regardless of his reasons for doing so, amounts to unacceptable professional conduct,” it concluded.

The PCC said Kamha’s otherwise “unblemished” 35-year career and his expression of remorse over the matter meant a reprimand was the appropriate sanction.

A second allegation that Kamha had created a Facebook page and shared confidential documents he had received whilst instructed by the trust was dismissed.