The governing council of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has issued a public apology to the whistle blowers whose actions uncovered a scandal in the organisation.
RICS has also announced a new ‘set of values’ and promises far-reaching cultural change, following the independent report issued into the governance of the body a few weeks ago.
Alison Levitt QC wrote a 467 page review following media revelations earlier this year concerning failures by RICS senior figures to act on a report by accountancy firm BDO.
The BDO report said that two years ago RICS was at risk of “unidentified fraud, misappropriation of funds and misreporting of financial performance.”
BDO’s report also gave the lowest possible 'no assurance' rating for the effectiveness of RICS’ financial controls - something which Levitt has described as being “the most significant criticism an auditor can make” of an organisation.
Other allegations have been swirling this year regarding four RICS non-executive directors who wanted the organisation to act on the BDO report’s concerns, but who instead had their appointments terminated.
The governing council says it has accepted all 18 of Levitt’s recommendations.
It has issued a public apology to the four NEDs who it now accepts were wrongly dismissed - Amarjit Atkar, Bruce McAra, Simon Hardwick and Steve Williams - and to former members of the governing council who had been improperly threatened with legal proceedings.
“These apologies were made privately, immediately before the publication of the independent review, and have now been made publicly by RICS” says this afternoon’s statement.
RICS says its new values are intended to “set the tone for the leadership’s vision, restoring pride in the institution and laying out the behaviour expected of all those who represent RICS in line with the forthcoming Rules of Conduct for Members and Firms.”
It identifies six key values - integrity, transparency, inclusion, collaboration, advocacy and passion.
The statement says: “Governing council expects these values to be embedded into the organisation through agreed policies and actions, measuring their success through independent benchmarking, regular feedback and reporting against clear targets. Accountability, providing value for money, championing diversity and creating a sustainable future are integral elements.”
The government council says it has also reaffirmed “its determination to prioritise the establishment of the independent review of governance, purpose and strategy” and sees the Levitt report and an additional internal review as critical to the rebuilding of trust and confidence in RICS. In addition there will be a new whistleblowing structure and a shake-up of executive pay and bonuses.
Nick Maclean, temporary chair of the governing council, says: “Ethical culture and behaviour are at the core of RICS’s identity and we believe our new values statement will be an important step in restoring pride in our institution. However, we are aware that we will be judged by our actions, not our words, and that is why we felt it was important to give an update on our response to Alison Levitt QC’s recommendations, with a clear timeline for each one”.