The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors last night announced a dramatic U-turn in the controversy over a report by an independent accountancy firm.
For weeks the institution has been the subject of allegations, chiefly in the Sunday Times, about alleged failures by RICS senior figures to act on the report by accountancy firm BDO, which said two years ago that RICS was at risk of “unidentified fraud, misappropriation of funds and misreporting of financial performance.”
BDO’s report gave the lowest possible “no assurance” rating for the effectiveness of RICS’ financial controls.
The newspaper allegations also claimed that four RICS non-executive directors who wanted the organisation to act on the report’s concerns had their appointments terminated. Shortly afterwards RICS made some 140 people redundant while Sean Tompkins - chief executive of RICS since 2010 - was paid £510,000 including £250,000 in bonuses.
Estate Agent Today and other media outlets were last week given a quote by RICS president Kathleen Fontana saying: “At this point in time, it is not governing council’s judgement that external, further independent external scrutiny is needed.”
However, now there appears got be a 180-degree U-turn.
Yesterday, according to a new statement from RICS, the governing council “voted unanimously to proceed with an independent review into the events that took place in 2018/19, the outcome of which will be made public.”
The statement continues: “Having listened to the views of members in recent weeks, and appreciating their need for further reassurance, governing council has decided to appoint an experienced, fully independent individual to undertake the review according to terms of reference which it will set.”
The statement does not identify who that individual will be.
And the statement goes on: “Separately, over the course of the last year we have been reviewing engagement and governance. Members have recently raised a wide range of issues and we would like to thank everyone who contacted us with their views and ideas.
“Having considered all inputs very carefully, governing council has decided to widen the scope of the current work relating to governance and engagement, and undertake a comprehensive review looking at the ongoing purpose and relevance of RICS in 2021 and beyond. It will examine a range of issues including member experience and engagement.
“We know that members will be keen to hear more and further information will be made available soon as to how all members can contribute to shaping the future of RICS.”
And in yet another statement last evening, the RICS government council interim chair Christopher Brooke, chief executive Sean Tompkins and president Kathleen Fontana jointly stated: “We welcome this important decision taken by governing council and lend our wholehearted support to the implementation of an independent review.
“We have listened to our members carefully, and we are confident that decisions agreed by governing council today are in the best interests of RICS and its members.”