In the first of our new series on Assessment of Professional Competence for QSs our APC Trainer tackles ethics

The following typical questions test the conduct rules, ethics and professional practice competence (M005). Questions specifically on ethics would usually be asked by the chairman of the interview panel towards the final stage of the interview. The question below explore the depth of the candidate’s knowledge and experience, starting at level one and then progressing to competence level three, which is the level required for the Assessment of Professional Competence.

Q The new RICS rules of conduct came into force in June this year, can you explain why these have been introduced and what the new rules are? [Level 1].

A The new rules of conduct were introduced following on from Sir Bryan Carsberg’s 2005 report on RICS regulation. The 2006/ 2007 president of the RICS, Graham Chase summarised the benefits of the new rules of conduct.

  • A profession that is better regulated, more effectively promoted and highly responsible.
  • Better, clearer regulation that is profession lead and user friendly
  • Shorter, principles based rules written in plain language and fewer than ten pages
  • An emphasis on assisting compliance through help and advice
  • A risk based approach to compliance that targets serious problems
  • A more responsive client regime with less paper and more IT

The rules for members include; integrity; competence; service; lifelong learning, solvency; information to RICS; and co-operation. There is a separate set of rules for Firms.

Q A separate division of your company is acting as technical advisor (TA) for a local education authority (LEA) on a major Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. A supplier, who your division has a long standing relationship with, asks you to support their bid by providing a detailed whole life cost appraisal of the scheme. They are aware of your company’s role as technical advisor for this programme of works, but have stated if you are unable to carry out this work they would go to one of your competitors for this and future works. What action would you take?

This question is testing the competence at level 3 and while this question is maybe outside the candidate’s direct experience, it is addressing a core competence and drawing on their knowledge to apply to real-life situations. The dilemma underlying this issue is concerned with integrity and handling conflicts of interest and managing client relationships.

A The candidate should first check whether there is an exclusivity agreement in place which precludes them from acting on behalf of a third party in relation to this programme of works. If there was, then the candidate should explain this to the supplier and decline the expression of interest. If there is no such agreement in place, the candidate is faced with making a professional judgement on whether it would be prudent to first decline to act on behalf of the supplier. As the candidate’s firm has an existing relationship with the supplier and the TA role is being carried out by another division, the candidate should raise this potential conflict of interest with their client, the LEA. In explaining the options to the LEA, the candidate should outline the security provisions which would be adopted on the commission to protect against any commercially sensitive information being received by the other party, which would include:

  • Exclusivity of staff working for each of the clients
  • Staff confidentiality strictly enforced
  • Physical separation of staff working on the commissions
  • Security of stored documentation, including locked filing cabinets and password protection for electronic data.

If this is accepted by the LEA, the candidate should write to the supplier confirming the potential conflict of interest and outlining the above confidentiality measures to be enforced. The other division of the firm should do likewise to the LEA.

If the LEA would not accept the firm to act on behalf of the supplier due to a potential conflict of interest, then the candidate should advise the supplier that they were unable to act on their behalf. The candidate would need to manage the relationship with the supplier, including the long term benefits of continuing to work together in the future.