BY BABU VARGHESE, PE, SI, CGC, CCC, FBPE Chair (2020)
In these difficult, uncertain times, it is crucial that we all come together and address this challenge to the health and safety of everyone. We all share concerns about protecting the well-being of ourselves and of our loved ones and friends.
It is important to monitor and follow directions from the concerned authorities and health professionals so that we can all get through this together. As engineers we are all trained to solve problems, and we have a strong teamwork approach to overcoming obstacles. I am sure we can keep the focus on safety of the public while adapting to new and challenging work environments.
NCEES has canceled the April 2020 PE exam as well as the zone meeting. The next FBPE board meeting in April will be conducted on a conference call. It seems most of us have had to switch to working remotely and I am confident we can be up to the task.
One possible benefit of being cooped up in the house is being able to complete the required continuing education courses.
The requirements of continuing education courses, list of Board-approved providers, and the record retention of those continuing education records are well described at the FBPE website under the Continuing Education tab. The licensees or the providers are no longer allowed to report the continuing education credits to the Board.
Rule 61G15-22.006, Florida Administrative Code, Demonstrating Compliance; Audits; Investigations requires the licensee to affirmatively declare completion of the continuing education requirements upon license renewal. The Board randomly audits a minimum of 3 percent of licensees in addition to the ones who failed to show compliance in the prior renewal cycle, to assure that the continuing education requirements are met. The audit letters go out during June, immediately after the renewal cycle. The short window of response time to produce documentation of compliance is noted in the audit letter.
To date, the board has audited approximately 1,300 licenses. When the previous CE audit was completed, around 10 percent of those audited failed to be in compliance. The top reasons licensees fail audits are:
- The licensee failed to complete the required ethics and Florida laws and rules courses. Many out-of-state licensees fall under this category, especially in regard to the Florida laws and rules course.
- One or more continuing education courses were not taken from a FBPE approved provider.
- The licensee did not complete the total required 18 hours of continuing education courses.
You Failed the Audit, Now What?
The consequence of a failed continuing education audit can be severe. The fact that the licensee had certified the completion of the CE requirements at the time of renewal without having actually completed the continuing education is grounds for disciplinary action.
The failed audit case goes to the Probable Cause Panel (PCP) along with the licensee’s response. If the PCP finds probable cause in the case, the prosecuting attorney will present the complaint to the full Board. The licensee, in most instances, will not have to appear in front of the Board. The Board’s action may include:
- Fines and administrative costs;
- Possible license sanctions, such as a reprimand, probation, or suspension; and
- The Board’s Study Guide.
The violation will be noted on the licensee’s permanent record, which will be available to the public under the licensee’s entry at myfloridalicense.com.
It is important to mention that failure to respond to the audit, in spite of the repeated requests by the Board staff, will result in the suspension of the license. This is far more devastating for someone with PE licenses in multiple states. A suspension in one state will be picked up by other states and will open up a separate disciplinary investigation by each state.
In short, it is imperative to complete the required continuing education credits before the renewal period ends.
Rule 61G15-22.008, F.A.C., Record Keeping states, “It is the licensee’s responsibility to maintain sufficient records to demonstrate completion of continuing education requirements for at least two licensure cycles (four years).”
One of the ways to keep records in order is to use the free continuing professional competency (CPC) tracking system offered by NCEES. This is especially useful for licensees with multiple licenses. You can create a MyNCEES account at NCESS.org. If an audit letter arrives, the required documents can be transmitted to FBPE with the click of a button.
The Board is here to provide support to members of the engineering profession as we navigate through this unprecedented situation. Please feel free to notify us of any issues, questions, or concerns that need to be addressed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our common purpose unites us, and we will weather these uncertain times together. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during this period.
Babu Varghese, PE, SI, CGC, CCC, is the president and principal engineer of Abtech Engineering Inc., a multi-disciplinary engineering firm, in Fort Lauderdale, which he founded in 1988. He has served on the Board since 2015, and was its vice chair in 2019.