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The internal watchdog for the UK’s top professional body for surveyors has quit en masse in a show of solidarity with its chair following a row over independence, raising fresh questions over the state of the organisation’s governance.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ standards and regulation board said on Wednesday that its nine members had resigned last Friday over “a clear attempt” by management to “reduce the effectiveness and power of the independent regulator within RICS”.
“We were treated from the outset by the leadership more as the enemy rather than as the regulator,” the nine people said.
The SRB was set up in 2020 as a free-standing watchdog within RICS. Its remit is to exercise the professional body’s regulatory functions and provide operational oversight in the public interest.
The mass walkout came after the resignation of SRB chair Dame Janet Paraskeva, who accused the 156-year-old organisation’s leadership of attempting to sack her for “repeatedly” raising “serious regulatory and legal concerns”.
The dispute comes after a damning independent review into corporate governance at RICS in 2021, which found that the body’s two-board system allowed its chief executive and chief operating officer to “become used to operating with little effective scrutiny”.
The probe, which was sparked by audit firm BDO raising questions over RICS’ financial management that led to the body running out of cash in 2018, prompted then chief executive Sean Tompkins to quit.
Paraskeva quit after Ann Gray, RICS president, accused her of making “false allegations” about the professional body to a minister and expressed an intention to remove her as SRB chair in a letter sent last week and seen by the Financial Times.
In the letter, Gray alleged that Paraskeva had “breach[ed]” her obligations as chair by attending a meeting with Rachel Maclean, housing and planning minister, in which she raised concerns about the watchdog without informing RICS leadership.
Gray claimed that Paraskeva had told Maclean that the SRB lacked the independence required to do its job, that RICS was failing to properly implement a governance framework it adopted last autumn and that the government should launch a review of the body.
“These statements are deemed serious unprofessional behaviour, which affect both the business and reputation of the RICS in addition to being a material breach of your obligations,” Gray wrote.
The SRB’s nine other members said on Wednesday that Paraskeva was “effectively to be dismissed for whistleblowing: for simply telling the truth”.
RICS has not had a permanent chief executive since Tompkins stepped down in 2021. Justin Young, former chief operating officer of estate agency Knight Frank, is due to take the helm next week.
Paraskeva said the SRB had “worked diligently on behalf of the profession and RICS to preserve the independence of regulation within the institution. This was not what we wanted to happen.”
Gray was contacted for comment.
In an online statement, RICS said Paraskeva had been given “every opportunity to convey concerns” and that it had “absolutely not” orchestrated a campaign to oust her or the SRB.
The body added that it was “dedicated” to implementing the governance framework adopted last autumn and “committed to . . . the role of the SRB”.