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The RIAS remain tight-lipped as financial probe gets underway

December 12 2017

The RIAS remain tight-lipped as financial probe gets underway
The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland is remaining tight-lipped after an investigation was launched by the Office for the Scottish Charity Regulator over serious allegations levelled against the organisations governance and financial conduct.

The Scottish Government department has responsibility for all charities, for which the RIAS is a member, but hasn’t publicly commented on the matter beyond confirming that an inquiry is underway. It is reported that it will be investigating the remuneration package afforded to deposed RIAS secretary Neil Baxter, questions arising from foreign trips taken by staff and usage of its charity credit card.

Similarly the RIAS is also keeping its head down, citing internal bureaucracy, although RIAS director of policy and development Karen Stevenson has suggested that formal proceedings have yet to get underway; telling voluntary and non-profit community Third Sector that: ‘We haven’t spoken specifically to OSCR’.

In a statement given to Urban Realm the RIAS added: “Unfortunately until we have council approval we are not able to speak further to the press on this matter.”

The troubled architects body was hit by the sudden resignation of treasurer and secretary Neil Baxter after a decade at the helm, following a members revolt over concerns at an autocratic leadership, questions over financial probity and a lack of impartiality.

Adding to the organisations woes the RIAS has been hit by a spam email alert with fake messages being issued, purportedly from its president Stewart Henderson via an unofficial account. Recipients are advised not to open any such correspondence.


#1 Posted by willothewisp on 12 Dec 2017 at 12:14 PM
Currently the activities of the RIAS raise more questions than they seem capable of providing answers for - publicly at least.
alan park
#2 Posted by alan park on 12 Dec 2017 at 15:07 PM
That's great. Hopefully, someone from 'New Chapter' is now going to step up to the plate to help with running RIAS. Oh wait, hard to find the time for both self-promotion and charitable work, I suppose. Neil Baxter was not an architect (not necessarily a disavantage) and still usually managed to respond eloquently, informatively and entertainingly when an 'official' quote was sought from the architectural fraternity. Trust the next incumbent will also have some personality. Ongoing problems within the profession are procurement (too protracted in a commercial world) and fee levels (too low for the level of service clients expect and most architects provide). Both matters for architects themselves to address, not the sole remit of RIAS. So long as some of us remain lickspittles (thanks, GG) and certain practitioners continue to carry out work for ludicrous fees, we remain our own worst enemies. Tell you one thing, when this recession finally recedes, and public services are better funded and if architects do more effectively fight their own corner, the standard of general building design has to improve. Can't believe what passes for 'architecture' in this and other design magazines. It's not simply down to councils being under-resourced that certain developments are (eventually) realised. And, architects are allowed to refuse a commission if they have issues with client's demands. To my mind its not RIAS that needs a kick up the jacksie, it's architects ourselves. Stop moaning and try to make a difference for the better, one of the reason most of us entered the profession. Right, I'm away back to sleep in my ivory tower now. Have a grand festering season when it comes.
I. Wright
#3 Posted by I. Wright on 12 Dec 2017 at 15:48 PM
"when this recession finally recedes, and public services are better funded"

Haha, good one.
#4 Posted by John on 12 Dec 2017 at 18:00 PM
Alan #2, it seems you are completely missing the point of this article. There is a plethora of articles on this site which to which you can easily transpose your comments regarding fees, procurement, commercially driven architecture etc.
This article is probing potentially serious financial misconduct at Scotland's primary architects' institute.
Maybe this is just another serious financial misconduct chapter for the country to sweep under the carpet?
#5 Posted by Cadmonkey on 13 Dec 2017 at 08:06 AM
So if there are suggestions of financial impropriety going on at RIAS should members postpone handing over their hard earned cash at subscription renewal time until it is all sorted out and conclusion published transparently.
That would stop it getting swept under the carpet.
Money talks.
#6 Posted by MV on 13 Dec 2017 at 09:22 AM
Cadmonkey, I am pondering that very dilemma. Does the President need council approval to speak on the organizations behalf? I would like a statement from the RIAS ASAP, given the importance of annual fee collection for the incorporation.
#7 Posted by willothewisp on 13 Dec 2017 at 13:10 PM
Cadmonkey #5, I have chosen not to renew my annual subs until there is significant reform of the RIAS as a whole. if enough architects do the same it will force change one way or another.
Bill S
#8 Posted by Bill S on 15 Dec 2017 at 14:27 PM
According to "breaking news" from the AJ, the Police are now involved.
#9 Posted by willothewisp on 15 Dec 2017 at 14:41 PM
According to the AJ, a police investigation is also now underway.
#10 Posted by Robert on 18 Dec 2017 at 00:00 AM
#2 Alan: Talk about a straw horse. Yes, architects have issues and bear some responsibility for the situation they find themselves in but what on earth has that got to do with the potential financial misconduct and serious mismanagement of our professional body?? With the Police now looking into things there is the growing prospect that criminal prosecution could follow. Those working under the banner of a New Chapter have done us all a service by shining a light on matters that have been swept under the carpet for too long.
#11 Posted by CADMonkey on 18 Dec 2017 at 10:11 AM
The RIAS tag is pretty badly tarnished now. It is time the RIAS was disbanded, and we were led by RIBA.
#12 Posted by willothewisp on 18 Dec 2017 at 14:06 PM
#11 CADMonkry- RIBA - why not our own professional body covering architecture and issues specific to Scotland? The RIBA does have issues as Scotland has separate legal, financial etc institutions hence the need for a separate body. The RIAS fails us at present.
#13 Posted by Cadmonkey on 18 Dec 2017 at 16:00 PM
There is no need for RIAS just because of separate legal and constitutional issues. They are straightforward to resolve as far as architecture is concerned. Lots of English based architectural firms work in Scotland and visa versa. Architecture doesn’t recognise borders!
It would be very easy for RIBA to make the required appointments knowledgeable about Scottish issues. I bet they already have it covered.
A centralised knowledge base (RIBA) would surely be advantageous to all, and I see no disadvantage.
Bill S
#14 Posted by Bill S on 19 Dec 2017 at 11:00 AM
And now, again according to AJ, "a member of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) Council has resigned, claiming the body’s decisions ‘put her in a compromising position’".

What is going on RIAS?!

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