The Chief Minister has maintained that a watchdog's urgent recommendations to tweak the CEO appointments process were put in place before Jersey's new top civil servant was chosen.
In a detailed response to an explosive report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the Government’s 2020 accounts and handling of the Charlie Parker saga, Senator John Le Fondré also said that Deputy Kirsten Morel was warned his bid to delay the Chief Executive’s appointment until after 2022 elections would have legal “ramifications” weeks before he brought the matter to the States Assembly for a vote.
In the end, Deputy Morel withdrew his proposition last month after giving an opening speech in the States Chamber and asking the Solicitor General a number of questions.
Responding to PAC’s recommendations to update the appointments process in line with recommendations from the Comptroller and Auditor General, and to only announce the appointment of a new CEO publicly when there was a “robust binding contract in place”, the Chief Minister said these had already been implemented, saying that the appointment of Belfast City Council’s first female CEO, Suzanne Wylie, had been “leaked ahead of the official announcement”.
News that former Belfast CEO Suzanne Wylie was taking the role was reported in the Belfast Telegraph on 8 September, but only publicly confirmed by Government on 20 September.
The Chief Minister said in his PAC response that the official announcement had been delayed as “a courtesy” to Deputy Morel and his proposition.
Pictured: The Chief Minister said Deputy Morel was twice warned his bid to delay the CEO's appointment could cause legal issues.
“The proposition requested the SEB to do something which was unlawful and ultimately was withdrawn,” the Government added.
“It should be noted that Deputy Morel was informed of the position and impact on 27 August 2021 and then by the SEB on 8 September 2021, including regarding the legal position and ramifications.”
He clearly stated that should the proposition be successful and enacted by the States’ Employment Board, it would “drive a coach and horses” through the article in the island's Employment Law that sets out the selection process for the head of the civil service.
“The political matters discussed here are not things which can alter the legality of selection that has been made,” he said, adding that the likely outcome would be, at the very least, a judicial review and possibly the chosen candidate choosing to sue the Government.
Pictured: The Solicitor General, Matthew Jowitt, told politicians that changing a recruitment process that is set out in law would be open to judicial review.
Although deciding to withdraw his proposition after receiving this advice, Deputy Morel questioned the Solicitor-General’s interpretation of some areas of the law, adding that the appointment was another example of the “powerlessness of this Assembly."
He also called for “much-needed reform” of both the SEB and the Jersey Appointments’ Commission, which oversaw the selection process.
The Chief Minister said the Government accepted the majority of PAC's recommendations, except for four.
One related to setting out the scope of responsibilities of Ministers and their departments, their revenue income and expenditure budget lines, which the Government said is already accomplished by the Government Plan and financial statements.
The Government also refused to change the advisory structure of the States Employment Board to improve its regulatory framework saying the SEB have access to legal advisers specialised in Jersey employment law, health and safety law and contract law when appropriate.
Following former CEO Charlie Parker's second job saga, the PAC also requested that the Chair of the SEB must inform the SEB within two days if any Senior Officer requests secondary employment, if required by their contract.
The Government said this was an “arbitrary timetable” and that the requirement to consult with the Group Director for People and Corporate Services who will advise the SEB only applies to the CEO as Directors General are delegated to the CEO.
They however said a revised scheme of delegation would be in place in September.
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