RIAS finances and governance investigated by charity watchdog

RIAS President Stewart Henderson
RIAS President Stewart Henderson

The charity regulator has launched an investigation into the finances and governance of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), according to reports.

The Herald has reported that the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) is examining the architecture body after being alerted to serious concerns about the way the organisation is governed.

The investigation comes after 150 Scottish architects signed an open letter calling for a major shake-up of the RIAS, accusing it of being financially inept and a “secretive and autocratic” organisation.

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

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

A spokesman for the regulator said that it does not comment on individual cases.

“In line with our inquiry policy, we cannot confirm or deny whether this charity is subject to an active investigation,” he told The Herald.

The open letter, signed by a group of architects calling itself A New Chapter, urged the RIAS, which it says has become “increasingly secretive and autocratic”, to release more details about its financial records.

After the publication of the letter, Stewart Henderson, president of the RIAS, acknowledged internal investigations had been carried out including “probity reviews, salary benchmarking and a review of governance policies”.

He said there had been “legal reasons” to explain why the information had not been shared more widely.

One point of contention, to be probed by OSCR, is believed to be the contents of the report and the ability of RIAS council members to access its findings.

The OSCR spokesman would not comment further but speaking generally about the watchdog’s remit, he told The Herald: “In making a decision, OSCR weighs up all the information we have obtained during our inquiry, and consider any ongoing risk to the charity including its assets and beneficiaries.

“We consider whether any actions the charity trustees took may have been misguided or deliberate, any corrective action already taken, and the intentions of the charity’s trustees going forward.

“We will decide whether we need to take any action in terms of using out formal powers, or whether it is more appropriate for us to provide support to the charity’s trustees in the form of recommendations for improvement which we may follow up.”

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