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Director General kept in dark about departmental shake-up

Director General kept in dark about departmental shake-up

Thursday 19 September 2019

Director General kept in dark about departmental shake-up


The Director General of a government 'super-department' was kept in the dark about plans to significantly slash his portfolio and create a new 'Economy and Growth' section, it has emerged.

It wasn’t until a public Scrutiny hearing this week that head of Growth, Housing and Environment (GHE) John Rogers was informed – accidentally – that he would effectively be losing the ‘G’ in his department’s name, with that element moving into an independent department.

The change was announced by the Minister for Economic Development, Senator Lyndon Farnham, who has previously bemoaned the loss of his old department under Chief Executive Charlie Parker’s new ‘OneGov’ regime.

Under the model, Economic Development - formerly its own department for which Senator Farnham had political responsibility - was absorbed into 'super-department', GHE, which also covers the portfolios of the Housing, Environment and Infrastructure Ministers.

But Senator Farnham was critical of the restructure, telling Scrutiny panellists earlier this year that he didn’t think the economic functions should sit with the environment and infrastructure ones.

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Pictured: Senator Farnham's department was absorbed by a "super-department"after Charlie Parker's government overhaul 'OneGov'.

While being quizzed by the Economic and International Affairs Panel on the Government Plan earlier this week, Senator Farnham first spoke of “a new department being created for the economic functions”, alluding to his previous discussions with the panel. 

Later on in the hearing, John Rogers said the Target Operating Model (TOM) for his department - a written plan mapping out all government employees and their responsibilities - which had been due for completion in the next week, had been pulled due to “pending changes to the reporting line.” “It’s unfortunate because it’s been a long hard difficult process we’ve been through,” Mr Rogers said, adding that it was not going to be a massive change, but “a fairly reasonable thing to do.” 

Senator Kristina Moore questioned why the decision to pull the TOM had been made, after an 18-month to 24-month process, and Senator Farnham explained it was the result of a “political decision” taken by himself, Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondré, and External Relations Minister Senator Ian Gorst.

Senator Farnham added: “As the new structure started coming together… Officers, politicians - we’ve got Ministers as well - have actually… I mean we’ve got officers still working in different buildings and different departments. I think it would be far more workable, productive, for everybody working on the economic future of the island to be together.”

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Pictured: Deputy Kirsten Morel, Chairman of the Economic and International Affairs Panel.

This prompted Deputy Morel, the Chairman of the panel, to question whether “EDTSC” (Economic Development, Tourism, Sport and Culture) would be moving out of GHE, which Senator Farnham confirmed.

Deputy Morel then asked Mr Rogers directly, “Does that mean you are losing the 'G' in 'GHE'?” to which the Director General replied: “I need to be told that formally. I’ve just been told in a Scrutiny meeting.” 

He then added: “The Chief Executive [Charlie Parker, ed.] is back tomorrow, and I’ll find out.” 

Senator Farnham assured that the changes would not impede progress, but would be “an opportunity to improve the current model.” 

He mentioned the department could be called 'Economy and Growth', and argued there were “significant benefits for the work we want to do across the whole economy in bringing that focus into one department.” 

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