Ministry of Justice and CLG informed of the RICS’ investigation into links with website

The RICS has alerted the Ministry of Justice and the communities department to its investigation into a conflict of interest within its dispute resolution service.

The news comes as the RICS confirmed it is also investigating whether members were involved in the matter, which concerns the now defunct website and its listing of adjudicators and arbitrators’ contact details.

Last week Building revealed the RICS had called in law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) to examine the situation. Two senior staff at the dispute resolution service (DRS) - Wajid Khan and Carol Goodall - exited the RICS last month over alleged “improper behaviour” involving the website.

Building now understands that FFW has been asked by the RICS to examine whether criminal offences were committed.

Arbitrators and adjudicators carry out a judicial role, making the role of the DRS in appointing them a sensitive one and the fact that the RICS has contacted two government departments has alarmed dispute resolvers.

RICS chief executive Sean Tompkins told Building: “Our independent regulatory arm is investigating how a number of RICS members appeared on First4ADR. At present, we have no reason to suspect any individual members of wrongdoing in relation to our investigation.

“RICS is confident of the decisions it is making in this matter. Only once the investigation is concluded can anyone externally comment with full facts.
“It is wholly appropriate for a professional body to notify its relevant government departments of investigations in an area of public interest regardless of the scale of the matter in hand. Serious questions ought to be asked if it didn’t.”

Tompkins also sought to shore up confidence in the DRS, which he said operated a “completely fair” appointment process and was as transparent as it could be.
“The process focuses on the needs of parties and is subject to independent regulation by the Dispute Resolution Appointment Board (DRAB),” he said.

But observers have asked why government was being informed.

Solicitor and chartered arbitrator and adjudicator Simon Tolson said: “Either this is a more serious matter than we realised or it is an overreaction given the alleged misdemeanours we are aware of.”

Khan and Goodall were unavailable for comment.