Top leadership resignations at RICS after damning report

RICS governing council has accepted in full the recommendations of an independent review after a ‘power struggle’ led to the resignations of the CEO and president.

Alison Levitt QC led an independent review into why four non-executive members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors management board were dismissed in November 2019 after raising concerns about a financial audit.

The 467-page report concluded that four non-executive board members, who raised concerns that a financial audit had been suppressed, were wrongly dismissed from the management board and that sound governance principles were not followed.

Ms Levitt said that the non-executive board members would have failed RICS if they had not raised concerns about treasury management controls.

Prior to the report going public, Sean Tompkins resigned after ten years as CEO. President Kath Fontana, an interim chair of the governing council, also stepped down.

RICS commissioned and paid for the report. In the opening section, Ms Levitt made it clear that she was only prepared to undertake the work (taking over from the original reviewer who stepped down) if it was truly independent, and that included setting her own terms of reference and receiving payment before delivery of the final report.

In gathering evidence for her report, Ms Levitt wrote that many of those who contacted her said that RICS has lost its way.

She wrote: “I have seen myself as a critical friend to RICS, and consider that I have an obligation to present the unvarnished truth based on the evidence I have received and the material I have read.” She recognised that the report would make uncomfortable reading for some.

The report is extremely critical of the governance of RICS.

“RICS has, in effect, two boards: in the cracks between the two, the chief executive and his team have become used to operating with little effective scrutiny.” Ms Levitt concluded that the CEO hid behind the governance structure when it was convenient, but circumvented it for much of the rest of the time.

Alison Levitt QC said on the day of the report’s publication:

“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.”

The report contains 18 recommendations that the governing council of RICS has accepted in full. In its statement, following the publication of Ms Levitt’s report, the general council resolved to implement them as quickly as possible.

The full report as well as supporting materials are available on the RICS website.

Photo credit: RICS