The president of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors insists that the organisation is acting on recommendations of a probe into its governance.
For some weeks the Sunday Times has been carrying stories suggesting dissent within RICS over a report by independent accountancy firm BDO on the organisation’s governance; that report, issued in 2018, was sharply critical of the organisation and said RICS was at risk of “unidentified fraud, misappropriation of funds and misreporting of financial performance.”
The Sunday Times says four non-executive directors who expressed concern at the report's findings had their appointments terminated, without their agreement.
Now the current president of RICS, Kathleen Fontana, insists the recommendations of the 2018 report are being acted upon.
In a series of quotes sent by RICS to Estate Agent Today, Fontana says: “We looked again at the work of the external independent auditors, BDO and Ernst & Young, and that was all considered in full … The real outcome from that is the governing council absolutely agree that our governance processes in 2018, 2019 and 2020 were followed absolutely correctly at all times.”
But she admits “the communication could have been a bit better” and adds: “Like all organisations, we are always looking at how we can improve … We absolutely accept that communication could have been better back in 2019 and we have put [mechanisms] in place to deal with it.”
Fontana says that since late 2019, RICS has been undertaking other reviews on governance and engagement practices. She says both reviews are “ongoing” and expected to complete in “a few more months”, likely in May.
With regard to RICS’ financial position, Fontana says: “If we take the treasury [management and controls] piece, we have had BDO, EY and Grant Thornton look over that. The [RICS] governing council has confirmed it is satisfied that our responsibilities were properly discharged. At this point in time, it is not governing council’s judgement that external, further independent external scrutiny is needed.”
And she goes on: “In terms of governance matters, we are already tackling those internally. We have an independent consultant working with us on that. Again, at this point, the governing council’s view is that we don’t need any further independent scrutiny or support to that.”
Fontana makes no reference to the termination of the appointments of the four whistleblowing non-executive directors but she says her organisation is “hugely committed” to supporting members through the next short-term period, and talking to government to try to make sure the industry is supported.
You can see our report on the Sunday Times' specific allegations here.