There are no less than three reviews - and a police investigation - being done into what went wrong with the Innovation Fund, and it's emerged the cost of all that may reach £150,000. And that's on top of the £1.4million in outstanding loan repayments which might not be recovered.
Grilled by Deputy Simon Bree, at the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel’s regular quarterly meeting, Senator Gorst came under increasing pressure to explain his role in the Jersey Innovation Fund and what action he was taking to straighten things out.
In January a damning report by the Comptroller and Auditor General Karen McConnell, highlighted a catalogue of failures in the running of the fund, and concluded that two thirds of the £2.1m worth of taxpayers’ money lent to six different companies may never be recovered.
The report followed the resignation of Mike King – the civil servant originally responsible for the fund – and Senator Philip Ozouf, the politician who was in charge of it, from at least January 2016.
During the scrutiny meeting Senator Gorst continually repeated he believed Senator Ozouf had done nothing wrong, and should probably not have resigned. He also told the panel there were no grounds for believing the Treasury and Resources Minister, Senator Alan Maclean, or the Economic Development Minister, Senator Lyndon Farnham, had done anything wrong, and he’d strongly resist any calls for their resignation.
Three independent reports are now being carried out to find out what went wrong, who’s responsible, and what lessons can be learned. It’s estimated the reports are going to cost the States around £150,000.
In answer to Deputy Bree’s questions Senator Gorst said as Chief Minister he did take responsibility for the fund, but when pushed as to whether he’d resign if the QC’s report said there was more he could have done, he rather evasively replied “I will act accordingly” – a reply the panel seemed to take as meaning he’d resign.