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Government spending watchdog to step down

Government spending watchdog to step down

Tuesday 05 March 2019

Government spending watchdog to step down


The watchdog behind damning reports exposing government failings in areas ranging from the Innovation Fund to the management of its £1billion property portfolio is stepping down.

After seven years, Karen McConnell is to leave her post as Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) – the government’s spending watchdog – after seven years.

During her time in the fixed-term role, she has been responsible for probing a number of different areas of the Government of Jersey, exposing problems and making recommendations along the way.

Innovation_Fund.jpg

Pictured: The C&AG's Innovation Fund review led to a Police investigation.

Starting in 2013, her eye for detail has over the years earned her praise from both members of the public and States Members, who today thanked her for her service. 

Praising Ms McConnell, who was appointed after holding a variety of senior positions including leading the Audit Practice of the UK Audit Commission, was Senator Sarah Ferguson.

“We will be very sad to see Karen leave at the end of this year but we accept the need for a fixed term tenure which she herself strongly advocated, in order to maintain the independence of this important and challenging role. She has been a positive force for change and we hope that whoever replaces her will continue the fantastic work she has undertaken on behalf of the Island.” 

That work has included reviews touching upon: 

  • The Innovation Fund– Ms McConnell was so concerned by what she found when she probed a £5million pot of public money designed to give new start-ups a government-funded leg up that the Police ended up getting involved, launching an investigation into a business that had taken public money before disappearing from the island. 
  • Visit Jersey– Board members of the island’s key tourism promotion body were forced to defend their salaries after the C&AG’s report, which found they were “high” at nearly three times the daily rate of some NHS Trust directors. 
  • Jersey’s health and social care system– few areas were left unscathed in her report, which demanded “robust action” after it emerged that millions of necessary savings had not been made, thousands had been spent on consultants deemed inefficient and unaccountable, and a lack of knowledge about who’s in charge among staff. 
  • Government grants– Ms McConnell found that the government was not properly keeping tabs on how grants worth hundreds of thousands were being spent. In the case of Aquasplash, she even went to far as to say the operators of the pool had been encouraged to waste public money because their £100,000 annual grant wasn’t properly monitored.
  • Jersey Property Holdings– The C&AG criticised the body responsible for managing the government’s 500-strong property portfolio of having a “silo mentality” and only managing to achieve one of its key objectives in ten years.

Government officials said that recruitment for the C&AG’s replacement will begin “shortly” using independent consultants.

The role, which includes the audit of financial statements and wider consideration of public funds including internal financial control, value for money, and corporate governance, will be advertised in Jersey and the UK.

Despite the end of her service being announced today, Ms McConnell is not yet finished her work. 

There are still several reviews left to be published, including a report on the remuneration of those employed by government-owned companies or bodies funded with public money.

READ MORE: 

Unplugged: Telling it like it is Karen McConnell gives Express an in-depth insight into her role...  

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Posted by John Henwood on
I can’t help wondering, did Ms. McConnell fall or, like her predecessor, was she pushed? Or did she simply get fed up with the unequal struggle? Her office and the States Complaints Board have to put up with the problem of ministers trying to gloss over or whitewash their findings. It must be disheartening. So, I ask yet again, where is the Ombudsman the States voted for? When are we going to see real accountability is cases of maladministration?
Posted by Michael Du Pré on
I should just like to thank Ms MacConnell for all her efforts over the last five years. She has done a great job in very difficult circumstances. Would that there were many more of her ilk in senior positions in the Island. Thank you very much and best wishes for your future.
Posted by Jean Lelliott on
This is very sad news for Jersey. A lady of strong principles who has done her best to put the island back on track. Unfortunately the Gorst Government ignored her work. I wish she would stay to try and help us get things back on track,
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