RICS “power struggle” results in management overhaul

The Governing council of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has this afternoon published Alison Levitt QC’s full report into the organisation’s conduct following an accountancy audit which led to the dismissal of senior management in 2019. 

As expected, CEO Sean Tomkins has stepped down, alongside President Kath Fontana, Interim Chair of Governing Council, Chris Brooke, and Chair of the Management Board, Paul Marcuse.

The report ultimately points to failures in the “governance architecture of RICS” resulting in the CEO and COO operating between the gaps, “with little effective scrutiny.”

In accepting the recommendations in full, RICS have committed to.

  • Greater oversight for Governing Council, which should be provided with the Minutes of all Boards and committees. Updates should be provided by the Chair of the Board or committee, not by the Chief Executive or another senior member of staff.
  • More frequent meetings of the Management Board, which should be recognised as having responsibility for all operational matters and should receive Minutes and documents it requests from all other Boards. Members should be able to raise issues with Governing Council directly.
  • Financial bonuses at senior executive level should be reviewed to determine if they are appropriate for a professional membership organisation.
  • The whistle-blowing procedures should be overhauled to allow any complaint against a senior member of the senior leadership team to be referred to an independent third party.
  • External legal advice should always be given on the basis that RICS is the client, not its senior management. RICS should consider whether previous legal advice kept this principle sufficiently in mind. The provision of legal advice to RICS should be determined by competitive tender every three years.

The search is now underway to appoint an interim CEO. to lead the organisation forward. In a statement on the RICS website, Nick Maclean, Temporary Chair of Governing Council said:

“We are grateful to Alison Levitt QC for her very thorough report and have accepted her findings in their entirety. We commissioned an independent reviewer because we are committed to fostering a culture of openness and transparency and that is why we have published it in full.”

“Whilst her report makes uncomfortable reading it provide us with an opportunity to implement far-reaching reforms and establish RICS as the gold standard for professional bodies, which will regenerate our historic institution”.

“I have personally apologised to the non-Executive Board members who were unfairly dismissed on behalf of RICS and would like to repeat this apology publicly, as well as apologising to members of the GC2019 group who were improperly threatened with legal action.”

“We have accepted the decisions of the CEO, President, Chair of Governing Council and Chair of the Management Board to stand down and thank them for their service. I can promise our members and staff that we will have an open dialogue about our plans for the new, external review of our organisation and about other changes we implement to address the failings identified in the report. I can reassure the wider profession and the public that our oversight of professional and regulatory standards has never been compromised by the events described in this report. These functions are governed by a separate Board, established at the beginning of 2020, with a lay majority and chaired independently by Dame Janet Paraskeva”.

Author of the report, Alison Levitt QC added:

“RICS is an organisation about which its members are passionate. Whilst those who provided evidence to me disagreed about a great many things, there was one subject which united them, namely the sense of pride they felt at being members of RICS. This has been a sad and depressing episode in the life of a great Institution.”

“There is a yearning to return RICS to a position of pre-eminence in professional membership organisations. I am confident that with courage and imagination, an independent external governance review will be able to put RICS into the position of moving forward in unity in the public interest. My report has not made easy reading for the Governing Council of RICS, which has shown courage, leadership and a real commitment to transparency by publishing it in full. I am pleased that it is adopting all my recommendations without delay.”

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