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Could the RICS governance crisis happen at ICE?

22 February 2022

Fortunately, the answer is ‘unlikely’, but ICE senior vice president Keith Howells explains why the institution is undertaking a review of its governance roles and responsibilities.

Could the RICS governance crisis happen at ICE?
ICE senior vice president, Keith Howells (pictured), will be leading a task force to guide the review.

Some drastic events surrounding the governance of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) last year led to the resignation of its president and damage to its reputation.

The situation was discussed at the September Trustee Board meeting, and the question was asked: could this happen at ICE?

The Trustee Board noted that they had no reason to believe that ICE’s current arrangements are unsatisfactory, but on the advice of the director general and secretary (DG&S), they asked me to lead a review to confirm that ICE is operating in accordance with best practice.

What happened at RICS?

Many of you will be aware of events at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), which led to an independent report into governance, authored by Alison Levitt QC.

The trigger for the report was a failure to address a financial control issue, resulting in a loss of trust between some members of the management board and the executive team, and culminated in the dismissal of four board members.

This backfired, with the upshot being a significant loss of RICS’ reputation followed by a number of high-profile resignations, including the president and the CEO.

The report identified a number of issues at RICS, principally:

  • A poor governance structure, where the reporting lines and responsibilities of the various parties were unclear.
  • A concentration of power in the executive team, which had become accustomed to deciding what was in the organisation’s best interests without necessarily testing this with the governing parties.
  • Rivalries between the parties, which led to an unwillingness to share information: as matters became heated, rules and procedures were invoked at the expense of sound judgement and common sense to avoid transparency.
  • Weak leadership at chair level in the board, the council and the audit committee.

The ICE is in a far less ambiguous situation

Changes to ICE’s governance structure have been implemented following the Orr Review which examined in depth the Royal Charter, the By Laws, the relationship between the ICE Trustee Board and Council, and the responsibilities of the trustees, the council and the key committees.

These changes have put ICE in a far less ambiguous situation than RICS found itself to be in, and it was thus concluded that the review should focus principally on the role, responsibilities and delegated authorities of the DG&S in relation to the Trustee Board and the president.

The board also requested that the role and responsibilities of the Audit Committee should be clarified, and that the relationship between ICE and its commercial arm, Thomas Telford Ltd (TTL), should be reviewed in terms of compliance with Charity Commission guidance.

The review task force

I will be leading a task force to guide the review. Members of the task force are Paul Sheffield, Andrew McNaughton, Emer Murnaghan, Karen Britton, Mark Jamieson and Philip Greenish, supported by Mike Napier.

They have been asked to seek views from a subset of the ICE membership with governance knowledge and experience, such as committee chairs, past presidents and regional representatives.

By its nature, the review will only address a cross-section of members however others may wish to offer views.

A brief questionnaire has been developed for members to complete. To request a copy please email us.

  • Keith Howells, president 2022/23 at Institution of Civil Engineers