ARBV CEO/Registrar report

Report by Dr Glenice Fox, the ARBV CEO and Registrar.

I am pleased to introduce the Architects Registration Board of Victoria (ARBV) report of operations for the year ended 30 June 2021.

The 2020-21 year was very busy and productive for the ARBV’s Board and small team of staff.

From July 2020 to June 2021, the ARBV conducted 2 APE sessions and one postponed APE session involving more than 400 candidates, granted registration or approval to 403 architects, companies and partnerships and managed the registration for over 9,000 regulated entities, including 6,228 renewals and 193 requests to change class of registration. The ARBV also initiated a total of 131 investigations relating to professional conduct and prohibited conduct, referred 2 matters for inquiry to the Architects Tribunal, and responded to one application to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for review of a determination by the Board.

In addition, the ARBV completed several significant strategic and operational initiatives in line with its ongoing focus on achieving a best practice approach to regulation of architects and a commitment to being a strong and effective regulator.

Underpinning everything is the ARBV’s purpose to protect the community interest and instil confidence in the regulation, integrity and delivery of architectural services in Victoria. The regulatory regime for architects administered by the ARBV embeds many key features to enhance regulatory outcomes – effective practitioner registration to hold architects to high professional standards and to scrutinise the risk of non-compliance, a broad and robust competency framework to ensure architects have relevant practical experience, and a well-established disciplinary process to address unprofessional conduct. Over the past 2 years, ARBV has invested significant time, resources and effort in enhancing its regulatory approach to ensure that it is targeted and risk-based and minimises regulatory burden while maximising protection for consumers of architectural services.

Implementing the performance improvements set out in the Ministerial Statement of Expectations (SOE) for 2019-21 continued to be a strong driver in setting the ARBV’s strategic and operational agenda and priorities. Other drivers were the key priorities in the Business Plan and an ongoing focus on achieving the key strategies in the 3-year Corporate Plan for 2019-22.

To ensure that it keeps pace with sectoral changes, and recognising the emergence of systemic risks, the ARBV revised its risk-based Regulatory Strategy, and developed a new risk profiling framework, which will enhance the application of a risk-based approach to regulation. A proactive strategic plan was also developed to focus on key current risks and includes engagement with consumers, particularly in compliance areas where the risk of non-compliance has been assessed as relatively high. To measure the success of its regulatory performance, the ARBV also developed a performance monitoring framework, to ensure that it continuously improves as a regulator.

To facilitate the successful delivery of the Regulatory Strategy and the Corporate Plan, the ARBV has reviewed its staffing model and organisational structure. A realigned organisational structure was approved in June 2021 and will come into operation in 2021-22.

In response to the SOE and to improve regulatory outcomes, several other initiatives were implemented in 2020-21 including a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) to digitise key business processes and improve data analytics; and a new more user-friendly website integrated with the CRM. The ARBV also developed guidance material for use by architects and consumers, co-operated with co-regulators to share information and insights, led the National Registrars Forum and implemented a communications and stakeholder engagement strategy.

In 2020-21, the ARBV refreshed processes, procedures and policies to implement amendments to the Architects Act 1991 (Vic), which took effect from July 2020. These amendments strengthened the ARBV’s powers to regulate the professional conduct of architects and thereby protect the public. The new powers included the introduction of the fit and proper person test, the requirement for architects to comply with continuing professional development requirements and introduction of a number of grounds on which the Board may immediately suspend the registration of regulated entities. Powers to gather information were also expanded.

At the end of the reporting period, the ARBV’s financial resources remained sound. As a self-funded regulator, the ARBV relies almost entirely on the revenue it receives from registration fees to fund its operations. Registration fees have not substantively increased since 2013. To implement its Regulatory Strategy, including launching its proactive strategic plan in 2021-22, and respond to the performance objectives set out in the SOE for 2021-23, an increase in revenue may be required. The ARBV will work with its responsible portfolio agency, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to assess the need to implement a review of fees.

Ongoing reform of the building and construction industry, both within Victoria and nationally, may impact on the regulatory environment for architects. At the close of the reporting period, the independent Expert Panel tasked by the Victorian Government with conducting a comprehensive review of Victoria’s building regulatory system, was preparing a final report and recommendations to the Minister for Planning. It is anticipated that the Panel’s recommendations will be released in 2021-22. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is also likely to have impacts for the architectural profession and its activities, although the full extent of those impacts and implications for the regulatory environment are still difficult to gauge.

During the reporting year, the term of office of 5 Board members expired and at the close of 2020-21, several appointments were still pending. I wish to thank both Karen Alcock and Dr Giorgio Marfella for their leadership and commitment in the role of Chairperson, and all members of the Board for the support extended to me since my appointment.

In closing, I wish to acknowledge Allan Bawden’s contribution to the ARBV stepping into the role of interim CEO/Registrar for many months and ensuring the organisation remained focused on achieving its strategic and operational priorities. I also extend a particular thank you to the ARBV’s small and dedicated team of staff for their excellent contributions to ARBV’s work in the 2020-21 year.