Architects welcome ‘significant regime changes’ at RIAS

The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) is set to implement “significant regime measures” after a series of reforms were agreed by the Incorporation’s council.

Among its changes, the next president of the architecture body will be elected by all the RIAS members and no longer be appointed directly by its council.

Other proposals include the creation of an interim audit and finance committee and a governance committee to review structural failures in the running of the Incorporation and to consider more significant reforms.

A group of around 150 Scottish architects called A New Chapter led calls for reform and launched an unprecedented attack on the RIAS last year, raising concerns at what they said was “a lack of effectiveness, poor governance and insufficient financial accountability”.

A five-point plan for “a new progressive future” for the RIAS was issued by A New Chapter in January.

The regime changes proposed by the group and put in place by the RIAS council include:

  • New interim governance committee formed to review structural failures in the running of the Incorporation and consider significant reform.

  • Interim audit & finance committee formed.
  • Council approved RIAS taking the next steps towards reinstating election of the president, subject to membership approval. Any future RIAS president is to be elected by the whole membership, and no longer appointed directly by council.
  • A governance paper presented to council highlighted a number of irregularities concerning the way in which council, and some smaller working groups, had been operating i.e. without the authority of the membership.
  • President Stewart Henderson to stand aside to allow a presidential election in Summer 2018, subject to membership approval.

  • Eight non-elected members of council found to be no longer eligible to sit on council.
  • A Special General Meeting to be called to allow wider members the opportunity to approve interim bye-laws.
  • Proposed trustee annual report and next year’s budget requires further work before being re-presented to council for approval.
  • Council recognised the need for a frank and honest review of historic decisions and associated failings which should be addressed via an independent review.

  • AGM may be delayed and, in a departure from tradition, be held separately from the RIAS convention.
  • The announcement follows a tough period for the RIAS which saw Neil Baxter leave his position as secretary and treasurer just days after A New Chapter demanded a major shake-up of the organisation.

    Then, in December, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) began a formal investigation into the 101-year-old body after being alerted to serious concerns about the way the organisation is governed.

    Police Scotland confirmed it is making its own enquiries into allegations of financial irregularities at the organisation later in the month.

    A spokesperson for A New Chapter said the group is “greatly encouraged” by the moves by RIAS to implement significant reform measures which “are in line with the changes aNC has been pressing for”.

    “We are supportive of the changes proposed and agreed at this week’s council meeting and welcome the Institution’s willingness to engage and work together for the benefit of the wider membership,” the spokesperson said. “aNC considers the proposed changes and decisions made at Wednesday’s council meeting to be encouraging. They are in the spirit of greater openness, membership participation, inclusivity and a renewed spirit of optimism.”

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