South Africa to benefit as RICS trains SA panels of dispute resolvers

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) aims to significantly strengthen its membership in South Africa and is actively promoting international standards and best practice in the built environment in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Founded in 1868, RICS is an independent professional body, currently with over 100 000 members who are property professionals working around the world, as well as over 80 000 RICS trainees and students. Setting the standards for surveying in land, property and construction globally, RICS is the oldest and largest professional organisation for the international land, property, construction and related sectors.

With staff based in Johannesburg and Cape Town, RICS is developing and growing its presence in South Africa, which also provides a gateway to the Southern African Development Community. It is forging links with the Council and Association of South African Quantity Surveyors, South African Geomatics Institute, South African Council for the Property Valuers Profession, the Fédération international des géomètres (FIG), leading South African universities and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

“Our focus on increasing our presence in this region is well-timed,” says Craig Hudson, RICS Business Development – Africa. “The South African Department of Justice is about to launch its Mandatory Court Mediation pilot, with new legislation being introduced which will make it mandatory for disputes to go through a mediation process before they can be set down for trial. In response to this, RICS is in the process of creating panels of fully trained and internationally accredited dispute resolvers who will play an important role in property related matters in the South African market. These are not only mediators, but also arbitrators, adjudicators and independent experts – who also bring years of experience in the built environment sector.

“In a world where more and more people, governments, banks and commercial organisations demand higher professional standards and ethics, attaining RICS status is the recognised mark of property professionalism. RICS members are active across the entire spectrum of land, construction and real estate activities, ranging from valuers, building surveyors, architects, engineers and commercial property agents to property asset managers, cost consultants, facilities managers, finance and investment professionals, lawyers, environmental experts, quantity surveyors to urban planners, planning and development managers and researchers, among others.”

Bursary Scheme

Hudson says RICS is currently in discussions with key players involved in implementing the SA Department of Justice mediation scheme to enable built environment cases to be transferred to accredited sector expert mediators on the RICS President’s Panel of Southern African Dispute Resolution practitioners.  “In addition, through skills transference and backed by our extensive experience we believe we can provide training and development opportunities for property professionals from all sectors of South African society, as well as in Africa, a continent which is experiencing burgeoning development. RICS has already established a bursary scheme with the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors to train mediators from previously disadvantaged communities,” he adds.

This month (23-27 June 2012), RICS global president, See Lian Ong, visits South Africa and will present the welcome address at the International Cost Engineering Council (ICEC) 8th World Congress at the International Convention Centre in Durban - an event hosted by the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors. Ong will speak on ‘the role of professional standards in construction and developing new skills to compete in the globalised world of construction’.

In addition, Dr John Fletcher, director of RICS Alternative Dispute Resolution services worldwide, is running a special introductory workshop at the ICEC Congress in Durban on forms of dispute resolution and avoidance used in the built environment around the world.

Comments Fletcher: “In developing specialist dispute resolution and avoidance services in South Africa we plan to train and create an extensive register of property dispute resolution practitioners in this country. This register will provide the local courts and the land, property and construction industry with quick, inexpensive and expert dispute resolution mechanisms which include arbitration, mediation, dispute avoidance boards and expert determination.”

The first non-British president in the history of RICS, Ong was inaugurated as the 130th president of RICS in July 2011, and has also served as chair of RICS Asia Board for over five years. This highlights the truly global nature of RICS in working not only in major established but also emerging economies of the world. A much sought after speaker, Ong has a career spanning more than 38 years in both the public and private sectors of the construction industry across Asia. During his visit to South Africa, in addition to addressing delegates at the ICEC World Congress from 8.45-9.45am on Monday 25 June (2012), he will be launching the Inaugural Register of RICS Southern African Dispute Resolution Service in Johannesburg on 27 June and in Cape Town on 28 June.

Says Ong: “Our objective in training and accrediting our chartered surveyors to be arbitrators and mediators for real estate and construction disputes is to help ensure parties can easily access experienced practitioners with a deep understanding of property and construction disputes, and who can provide an internationally recognised level of cost effective and expert arbitration.”

Adds Fletcher: “Apart from the obvious cost factor, there are many advantages to using arbitration and mediation as an alternative to the courts in regard to dispute resolution in property and construction disputes. In particular, parties have a greater degree of freedom over the proceedings and timetables, and unlike court hearings, arbitration and mediation allow parties to resolve disputes in private and also choose their own arbitrator/mediator. As RICS sets, maintains and monitors high quality standards for chartered surveyors, we are able to guarantee that those who take on arbitration appointments are experts in the dispute resolution and regulated according to the highest international professional standards.”

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