Four names put forward by Cabinet Office believed to be retired civil servants

The government has suggested four people to carry out a review into the future of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Building can reveal.

The troubled institution is currently searching for a candidate to lead an external investigation into its purpose, governance and strategy, which is set to start next month.

The Cabinet Office’s chief property officer Janet Young has given advice on “potential names” to conduct the review, the department confirmed.

It has not been disclosed who the four people are but they are thought to be retired members of the civil service.

Janet Young

Chief property officer Janet Young handed the RICS potential names to lead a review into its purpose, governance and strategy

A spokesperson for the RICS said: “One of many conversations that have taken place is with the relevant team in the Cabinet Office which has oversight of appointments involving former civil servants.”

The search for an external reviewer follows the damning findings of an independent report into a governance scandal which resulted in the resignations of four of its senior team, including chief executive Sean Tompkins and president Kathleen Fontana.

It is unclear if the RICS were approached by the government or the other way around.

A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office said the RICS came to the government for an “informal conversation” for advice on names which Young could recommend.

He added it was “nothing as official as putting the government approved names forward for the review”.

But the RICS spokesperson did not rule out the possibility the government had stepped into the recruitment process.

The institution has hired consultant Gatenby Sanderson to find an appropriate candidate to lead the review, with open advertisements likely to start next week.

The RICS said that in the meantime, it had been “approached by a range of organisations who have put forward names and made suggestions, all of which are welcomed as part of the ongoing process”.

Transferring an existing review into the future purpose of the RICS, titled ‘Defining Our Future’, to an external reviewer was one of the recommendations made in the findings of last month’s report.

Alison Levitt QC, who carried out the investigation, suggested that a retired senior civil servant “of impeccable reputation” could be one possible candidate.

She added that the “ideal person” would be someone of “high standing, with knowledge of governance and how public-interest bodies work, but who is independent of RICS”.

Levitt’s investigation had looked into the dismissal of four non-executive directors by the RICS’ executive team in November 2019.

It concluded that the firings, which had been made after the non-execs had raised concerns over the handling of a critical financial report, were unfair and resulted from a “power struggle” at the top of the organisation.

Last week, the RICS issued public apologies to the four non-executives and said their dismissals had been “unacceptable and indefensible”.

But earlier this week the four hit back at the apology, calling it “difficult to accept as a statement of genuine contrition” as it appeared alongside messages of thanks to Tompkins and Fontana.

It is understood that the non-executives were shocked by the contents of the report and by the behaviour of the RICS executive team, who Levitt concluded had spent months trying to find a way to fire them.