One of Jersey's top political scrutineers has been cleared of any wrongdoing in a row over the former Government CEO's refusal to be grilled publicly one last time on "outstanding matters" before he left.
Express revealed last month that Public Accounts Committee Chair, Deputy Inna Gardiner, had asked Charlie Parker to appear before her panel to answer questions on the Government’s spend on consultants and IT projects, among other items, before his departure date of 31 March.
When he refused, Deputy Gardiner asked that he reconsider, and noted that a press release about the hearing would reference his lack of attendance if he did not change his mind within the next 24 hours.
Responding a day later to tell her that he had existing commitments and annual leave booked, Mr Parker accused Deputy Gardiner of threatening him and warned that he was minded to make an official complaint against her.
He also questioned whether Deputy Gardiner was suggesting civil servants shouldn’t take holidays and asked which of his appointments, which included a meeting with Guernsey politicians, she deemed “not important."
A “shocked and disturbed” Deputy Gardiner then wrote to the Chief Minister – who is Chair of the States Employment Board, Mr Parker’s official employer – to remind him that the top civil servant must answer to her committee under the Public Finances Law.
She also referred herself to Commissioner for Standards for investigation in relation to a potential breach of the Code of Conduct for Elected Members.
Pictured: The new Government CEO, Paul Martin - with whom Deputy Gardiner has said she hopes to build a "constructive" relationship.
The Commissioner, Paul Kernaghan CBE, has now cleared her of breaching the code; instead he ruled that: "The exchange of correspondence suggests a regrettable breakdown of constructive communication between the PAC and the Chief Executive."
He went on to note that bringing a formal complaint against Mr Parker would now be a "nugatory" (meaningless) exercise, since he has already left office.
In the absence of Mr Parker, a public hearing on consultant and digital spend still went ahead on 29 March with the Government's Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer instead.
At that meeting, the COO John Quinn, said that there was "no guarantee" that the now doubled budgets for the main government IT program would be met, without more funding being required.
Following the hearing, Deputy Gardiner commented: "I would like to thank the team of Officers for answering the questions in a way which accurately reflects the position we find ourselves in today. This willingness to admit potential failings and possible lack of progress in some areas reassured the PAC that the Government is aware of pitfalls and challenges and is working hard to put things right. The open dialogue is refreshing and allows the PAC to fulfil its role as a 'critical friend', to help create an efficient and dynamic government.
"The Officers have agreed that a lot of work still needs to be done including:
producing a 'skills map' so that skills shortages within the current staff can be identified and remedied.
Ensuring PAC and C&AG recommendations are implemented before being allocated 'closed' status
Developing clear and useful mechanism for definition of use of consultants, including 'structured needs assessments', as required in the Public Finances Manual, to ensure consultants are only brought in to undertake specific tasks which can't be done by current staff
Better accountability on value for money of ITS spending
"The Government must demonstrate value for money to the public of Jersey and we will monitor the use of consultants closely and review the ITS spending programme later this year."
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