Yes, a very big congratulations to Robin and all the new Nationally Elected members, particularly Malcolm, Helen and Gordon who have worked so hard for reform over the last year.
Despite those who were not keen for change, and their criticism of aNC raising questions as harmful to the RIAS, the statistics very much prove otherwise.
In the National Elections last year were had barely 1% of the membership bothering to cast a vote - this year it was nearly 24%. This was much higher than the very public RIBA election earlier this year which was more in the region of 18%. Both organisations can hopefully build on that, but what a great turnaround for the RIAS.
More than that, I attended a GIA workshop earlier this week, part of a massive programme to inform and engage members with strategy. It was a packed meeting with a great range of people, young and old. There were people from practice and education as well as non architect, developers and technologists, keen to have their voice heard as well. It is the same in the East will Julie Wilson setting the pace with members engaging in a series of sell-out workshops.
How fantastic is all of this compared to a year ago when the RIAS 5 year strategy came across a slightly embarrassing 'below the counter' rubber stamp job, with pretty much zero engagement of our members.
I was sorry to see Stephen Miles didn't make it on to Council as he so did much to help support reform and like the fantastic Rosalie Menon, was not afraid to speak out. Hopefully they will remain engaged and we will see them back on Council in due course.
Comment on: Can one of these candidates shake up the RIAS?
Gordon Smith says “it was acknowledged the governance structure needed updating” and then admits: “Mistakes have been made in the past but steps have been put in place so they cannot be repeated.”
Well guess what, he was about one of the last people on Council to acknowledge this. I have found him not just a poor advocate for change, but one of a small group who was less than supportive to those of us who tried to raise concerns.
The small group he supported formed themselves in to a “Governance Review Group” most of whom had a conflict of interest. Despite claiming to have met 33 times this little group did not produce any report, did not identify any failings and did not even produce a set of minutes. How can steps be in place to stop problems from repeated when the problems have never been identified in the first place?
When it was finally accepted that the members should vote for the RIAS President, instead of this being ‘decided’ by Council, some of us fought to open this up further by having this role shared by 2 people. This was to make the role more attractive to people who could not afford the time away from their work and families - perhaps younger female architects.
Gordon Smith, as he admitted at the Edinburgh Hustings, was one of those who voted against this, helping to ensure this opportunity was lost.
The failings Gordon Smith refers to all happened on his watch.
Just like the former Secretary, I note Gordon Smith has to indulge in some unfair and uncalled for RIBA bashing to deflect some criticism away from the RIAS. There is no such comparison with the RIBA and this statement is highly misleading. So much for a his claims of collaboration being the key to success.
Robin Webster, since he joined Council earlier this year, has shown himself to be a breath of fresh air, a person of true integrity, progressive and a genuine advocate for change - with no hangover from the previous regime.
I would urge all RIAS members to look closely at what each of these candidates has achieved over their professional lives - and what they are saying here. It is easy to make grand statements about what you would do if you became President, much harder to deliver.
I therefore agree with that last person to comment above: Robin Webster is the only candidate capable of bringing about sorely needed reform.
I personally share the concern expressed by Chris Roche about the number of people who chose not to vote in this election. However, there are a few points worth clarifying:
* Vice Presidents of the RIBA do not determine who can stand for RIBA President.
* Any chartered member is eligible to stand for President - honorary members too.
* The role of RIBA President already comes with a salary.
* The role of Vice Presidents is to chair the main RIBA committees. While VP's are selected by Council - and those choosing to stand are often elected members with experience of serving on those committees - any chartered member is entitled to stand.
* There are currently 7 such roles (4 VP's & 3 Hon Officers), and only 2 are based in London.
With only 3 people wiling to stand and with less than 20% of the membership voting in this election, it seems to me the only safe conclusion about the other 80% is that they have been pretty much silent. Next time around it would be great to see a much more engaged membership debating the issues of the day and if they believe change is necessary, setting this out in a positive and constructive fashion - and then making their vote count.
Surely the point about being part of a professional membership organisation is not about being left to plow your own furrow?
Lisa makes a number of good points, and I agree one of the roles of professional bodies is to promote the value of the work of its members.
This is entirely consistent with one of the key objectives of the current RIBA 5 Year Strategy (2.1) which is to ensure the public understands the impact and value of architecture and architects.
Refusing to approve further public funding at this stage is welcome news to those of us who are interested in how agencies raise funding and carry out procurement exercises using public money. However, should this logic not also apply to the remaining unspent public funds?
While I welcomed the RIBA Councils decision to support the motion calling for a detailed and independent investigation into the procurement of the Garden Bridge project, I was disappointed that the original motion which called for the work to be halted until this enquiry had been completed, was not approved in full. While I understood many of my fellow Councillors were keen to avoid any perception of the RIBA taking sides, I was nonetheless disappointed not to have been given the opportunity to table an alternative motion.
Instead of calling for the bridge to be halted, my suggestion was to suspend any further spending of the remaining public funding until TfL or the GBT could prove beyond question that the procurement process was legally compliant.
Paul Finch is probably correct when he commented last week (on the previous AJ article concerning 4 separate enquires in to the Garden Bridge) that many people objecting to the procurement process are really people who simply object to the idea of a bridge. If the business case justifies it, planning consent is awarded and the majority think it's a good idea, then I suppose to many people, continued negativity might now sound a bit tiresome.
However I am sure Paul Finch is not suggesting this justifies breaking the law? The story here cannot only be about the public hue and cry about whether or not the bridge is a good idea. I know that I am far from alone in believing the concern about procurement is a story which stands alone. Surely this is something that should be of interest to us all - not just opponents of a bridge across a river in London.
These are serious allegations and if correct would amount to a manifest breach of the Public Contract (Amendment) Regulations 2009. The issue here is not just about whether or not the initial appointment should have gone to competition, it is about the overriding legal obligation to ensure all bidders were given equal opportunity and a fair and equal assessment of their bids.
Under the Public Contract procurement rules the process must be transparent in order to ensure accountability - an obligation to the bidders but also to the public purse. The reason for this is to give people an opportunity to check the process was fair and equal and in accordance with the rules - and to raise an action should grounds arise. If authorities do not fully advise the unsuccessful bidders how their tenders have been assessed (or how the terms might have changed) how can the bidders then determine grounds to challenge an award and set in motion any process of accountability?
The recent GLA Oversight Committee report into the TfL internal audit is damming to say the least, particularly TfL's lack of disclosure. However it also appears to have failed to consider key legal obligations as set out in the Public Contract Regulations. Indeed there appears to have been no consideration at all to the remedies that might apply should a manifest breach be discovered - other than asking TfL to consider "lessons to be learned". Remedies for breaking procurement law however, are not just about learning lessons and moving on.
Since 2009 the legal remedies are no longer just about compensating unsuccessful bidders but also include terminating a contract where an award has already been made, as well as significant fines. It is important to note the intention of this legislation is that remedies are to be proportionate and dissuasive. While the legislation provides some defences to authorities against a contract being set aside where such a decision might be onerous, it is also important to note this specifically excludes grounds of cost.
These remedies were specifically introduced in 2009 for good reason.
Paul Finch mentions the bean-counter brigade, and dismisses their concerns with a suggestion as to how this project might be more affordable. While this sounds to me like a good idea, this is beside the point. It is important to bear in mind that accountability is not just about numbers and value for money. For those of us who have an interest in fair public contracts procurement accountability is about those responsible for spending public money being able to demonstrate compliance with the law and being held to account if they can not.
While there may be significant consequences for the Garden Bridge project should it be discovered these allegations are correct, there would be even bigger implications if authorities were allowed to ignore or bend the rules and act with impunity. This is not just an issue for architects or people in London.
It is also worth considering that authorities may wish to progress a project quickly and commit significant spend on the basis that there will be no 'going back' as no-one will want to waste further funding. Having moved quickly, and perhaps not having thought everything through, it is also not uncommon for other costs to emerge.
By standing by his position and not approving further public funding I hope this indicates the Mayor will also true to his promise to fully investigate the procurement process. I trust that this will be a thorough, critical and unbiased investigation of events from the outset and that it will also consider appropriate remedies should these allegations be found to be correct.