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A ministerial return for Senator Ozouf?

A ministerial return for Senator Ozouf?

Tuesday 02 May 2017

A ministerial return for Senator Ozouf?

Two ministers have been publicly ticked off for their handling of the Jersey Innovation Fund - but neither is Senator Philip Ozouf, who was the one who actually resigned following the publication of a damning report into the whole affair.

The Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, has revealed he is writing to two of his senior ministers, who at different times were both responsible for the Economic Development Department - Senators Lyndon Farnham and Alan Maclean - expressing his "disappointment" with the way they oversaw the Fund's management.

He says he "remains confident" in their abilities, which means he is likely to resist attempts to force them to stand down, even though they have been publicly censured. 

But in his statement to the States Assembly publishing a second damning report on the Fund (JIF), this time into the way it was overseen by his ministers and senior civil servants, Senator Gorst pointedly did not criticise Senator Ozouf, and went out of his way to argue he was not responsible for what happened, and therefore could now return to the Ministerial benches:

"The report is clear that Senator Ozouf understood, on the basis of what he was told, that the JIF was functioning effectively and he took action as soon as he discovered otherwise.... For a range of reasons, legal responsibility for JIF did not pass to Senator Ozouf until April 2016. He then came to this Assembly on 14th June 2016 to make a Statement on the Fund.

"In taking this responsibility, Senator Ozouf proceeded to ask questions about how the Fund was being managed. This led to a change of Accounting Officer and the commissioning of independent forensic reviews into each borrower.

"Sir, it would be wholly unreasonable to hold Senator Ozouf accountable for all actions that took place before the legal transfer of responsibility - despite a mistaken view that delegation had already been granted."

 It was my intention, after the last election, to appoint Senator Ozouf into a Ministerial position with clear, unequivocal responsibility for Innovation and other policy areas.  I remain very firmly of the view that Senator Ozouf has a great deal to offer our island and this Assembly. I will be discussing with colleagues what future role Senator Ozouf might play."

Senators Farnham and Maclean have so far not commented on the Chief Minister's statement. 

Senator Gorst concluded his statement by promising changes to a "cumbersome" government system:

"It is clear from this report on the Innovation Fund that our political system needs reform in the interests of accountability and efficiency. I am absolutely committed to bringing forward changes to ensure that the Assembly and government function for the benefit of islanders, and that we use the talents of all Members who wish to be involved in government.

"I plan to bring forward proposals to change the machinery of government and remove the divide between ministers, assistant ministers and Scrutiny. I will consider alternatives to the Troy rule and collective responsibility, and I will propose that the Chief Minister should be able to amend ministerial functions and departments by order."

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