Police begin early enquiries into RIAS finances

Police Scotland has confirmed it is making enquiries into allegations of financial irregularities at the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).

The announcement follows a tumultuous period for the RIAS during which it has been accused of being “secretive and autocratic” from many of its members, faced the resignation of its long-standing secretary and become subject to an investigation by the charity watchdog.

Now a police spokeswoman has said it too is investigating the architecture body following a complaint.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “In October 2017, Police Scotland received a report of possible financial irregularities at a professional institute.

“Enquiries are at an early stage and officers continue to establish if any criminality has taken place.”

Last month more than 150 Scottish architects under the banner ‘A New Chaptersigned an open letter calling for a major shake-up of the RIAS, claiming it was poorly run, secretive and lacking proper financial accountability.

The letter said the group of architects is “concerned at what we see as a lack of effectiveness, poor governance and insufficient financial accountability in Scottish architecture’s professional body”.

“We want an organisation to better champion the profession and provide more meaningful support in the many crises which have afflicted us for too long,” it added.

The signatories said they deplored the “general, self-satisfied torpor and bunkered, closed-up-ness that afflicts the RIAS, and demand that a culture of openness and inclusivity is now embraced”.

In particular, the group said it would like to know more about the financial records of the RIAS, which it says has become “increasingly secretive and autocratic”.

Just days later, Neil Baxter resigned as secretary and treasurer of the organisation after ten years in the position.

Then, at the beginning of this month, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) began its own formal investigation into the 101-year-old body after being alerted to serious concerns about the way the organisation is governed.

Several issues are believed to warrant “further inquiry” by the OSCR probe which will take into account the trustees’ oversight and the charity’s finances.

While yet to provide a response to the police investigation, the RIAS confirmed it had been contacted by OSCR and has pledged to co-operate with the regulator.

In a newsletter to members last week, the RIAS said it “acknowledges that a system of decision making has developed that is not supported by a robust policy framework. The findings of the review has identified a lack of structured governance and accountability”.

It said: “Very recently, the OSCR wrote to RIAS with a series of questions. All of those questions can and will be answered. The RIAS president and council will work fully and openly with OSCR to ensure full compliance with their requests and the obligations of RIAS as a charitable body.”

RIAS is to advertise for a new chief executive, and has appointed Karen Stevenson, the current director of policy and development, in an acting role.

The RIAS is also in the process of forumulating a new strategy, to cover the next five years.

The body’s president, Stewart Henderson, has been re-elected to stand for another year.

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