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New corporate governance guidelines for RCVS

14 November 2008

The corporate governance arrangements of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons are ‘perfectly competent’ but compliance could be improved. That was the finding of a Corporate Governance Group established to address issues of transparency and openness within the College.

The Group is chaired by Sir Anthony Holland, recently-retired chairman of the Standards Board for England, which oversees how local authorities promote and improve the ethical behaviour of their members. Its remit is to consider the College’s existing provisions and best practice elsewhere.

Reporting to RCVS Council on 6 November, the Group highlighted that, “as the guardian of the good standing of the profession,” Council must be scrupulous in terms of its governance, in order to “command the respect and trust of the public and the profession”. In addition, it said, there was a legal imperative arising from the fact that many of the College’s statutory and public functions could be challenged in the courts, for example, on the basis of alleged bias or abuse of process. It was also noted that as a public body the College is subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

The immediate need was to consider Declarations of Interest (DoI), including guidance and training to recognise potential conflicts, monitoring of compliance and future sanctions. In delivering the report, Sir Anthony said that the present arrangements were perfectly competent to deal with issues as they arose but that compliance was an area of concern.

Sir Anthony was sympathetic to the fact that, in a relatively small profession, there was a limited pool of experts and that conflicts of interest may occur. He stressed a common-sense approach, regularly-updated declarations and absolute transparency.

Following debate, recommendations agreed by Council included DoI to be submitted by all those serving on Council and Council Committees, the development of a Code of Conduct to support them and regularly-updated DoI to be published on RCVSonline. In addition, specific powers will be brought in to suspend from Committee membership those in breach of the Code.

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