Having followed the Golden Hand-shake issue I was looking forward to reading the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report, not just for what he said but what was omitted. As such it did not disappoint.
It is a well known fact the former Chief Executive was a leading player in the unlawful suspension of the former police chief Graham Power but he was never taken to task following the publication of the Napier Report. Following the news of the Chief Executive’s resignation a couple of months later, at the States Sitting on 1st March I asked the Chief Minister whether the Napier finding had any influence on the resignation. In his reply which received a foot stamping response, he said the findings did not directly influence the decision but it was the overall level of personal comments and innuendo on the Chief Executive by a handful of States Members, before, during and after the review that led to the decision. (I don't think he included Senator Ozouf within the handful). However that fact is not to be found in the Report.
Another matter which appears not have been pursued is the claim made by Frank Walker that the Chief Executive was being “Headhunted” and as such a favourable adjustment was required to retain the Officer. A reference to that matter can be found as a footnote on page 11 of the Report. If indeed the adjustment was made because of the claim which now appears to be without substance then surely some one should be held responsible for the decision. It was with this in mind which led me to draft the letter below which I forwarded to the JEP for consideration in its Letters to the Editor Column.
In 1996 the District Auditor for Westminster City Council ruled that the then leader of the Council, Dame Shirley Porter, had spent public funds without lawful authority and she was ordered to repay the Council forty two million pounds from her own assets. She later settled for a repayment of a mere thirteen million pounds. The legal principle involved in this case is known as "Ultra Vires." This principle comes into play when a person in political authority exceeds that authority at public cost and thereby becomes liable to reimburse that cost at their own expense.
Readers may wonder what this has to do with
Jersey. The answer is not a lot until the recent publication of the report by the Comptroller and Auditor General into the "Golden Handshake" of over half a million pounds awarded to the departing Chief Executive Officer to the Council of Ministers, Bill Ogley. http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyReports/2012/R.038-2012.pdf
In reading the report it would be easy to become distracted by the fascinating tale of the real workings of the
Island's government. The picture painted is of an administration which is tribal, dysfunctional and embroiled in allegations of bullying, poor morale and internal rivalries. Amongst this soap-opera like saga there is a danger that a key point may be lost.
Readers may recall that in a recent public defence of the award, the former Chief Minister, Frank Walker, claimed that the amendment to Ogley’s contract which provided for the generous package was triggered by the said Bill Ogley receiving an offer from a large UK Local Authority which was even more generous than the one he was receiving in
Jersey. The investigation by the Comptroller and Auditor General indicates that at least one of the former Chief Executive’s colleagues has a recollection that something of the sort was said at the time. However, in spite of extensive investigations, no evidence of any such job offer has been found. Nobody can produce the offer and seemingly nobody can say where it came from. Readers of the Report are fully entitled to conclude that the offer simply did not exist and that the mysterious offer from an unknown authority was simply a device to justify a decision which was indefensible on any other basis. UK
The reasons for "justifying" the decision which may still be applicable are set out in the Report. In brief they revolve around the fact that the Chief Executive, although supported by the then Chief Minister, was conscious that the pending change in Government could lead to him falling from favour and potentially losing his position. On this basis a "handshake" clause was written into his contract. Before readers become too sympathetic to the plight of this former Chief Officer it might be worth considering what, if anything, was different about his position from that of any other Chief Officer. Senior Public Sector jobs in
Jersey are well paid and applicants enter them with their eyes open. All senior positions are vulnerable to the winds of change. In many previous cases matters have been resolved by negotiation and realism. The package awarded to the former Chief Executive is unprecedented in the Jersey public sector and, crucially, the key committee appears to have awarded it on the basis of information which now appears to be false.
So, to return to the saga of the good Dame Shirley Porter and her "Ultra Vires" expenditure when leader of Westminster Council, was the decision to include a "golden handshake" in the contract of Bill Ogley properly taken on the basis of accurate information? Or could it be that a commitment of over half a million pounds of taxpayers money was made on the basis of inaccurate information provided to some of the decision makers and does that make the legality of the award questionable? And if the legality of the award is in doubt then is the long suffering Jersey Taxpayer entitled to any compensation for this debacle?
The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General takes us on an interesting journey but it stops short of the key question, namely, in the light of what has now been revealed who pays? In Westminster Dame Shirley Porter had to pay the cost of her political misdeeds from her own pocket. Can readers think of anyone involved in this decision that might be both liable and able to compensate the Jersey Taxpayer for their substantial losses in this affair?
Jersey Human Rights Group.
The Group meets at 530pm on the last Monday of the month. It is currentlty looking at the issue of Spent Convictions in relation to Disclosure, Data Protection and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Law. It is an interesting subject because sometimes when one is applying for a job the employer requires the applicant to include the existence of Spent Convictions even though the Conviction, according to the Rehabilitation Law, is Spent.
At our meeting this coming Monday 26th March our guest speaker will be Emma Martins, the Data Protection Commissioner who will inform members how the Law should work.
Our meetings are held in the States Building in the Royal Square, but because of security members meet by the statue in the Royal Square just before 530pm and are taken into the Building.
Should anyone be interested in attending next Monday's meeting please could they contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or our new Chairman Deputy Monty Tadier on email@example.com or our Secretary Nick Le Cornu on firstname.lastname@example.org