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The good, the bad, and the ugly of being Gov CEO...

The good, the bad, and the ugly of being Gov CEO...

Wednesday 21 June 2023

The good, the bad, and the ugly of being Gov CEO...

Wednesday 21 June 2023

In her final public grilling during her term in office, outgoing Government CEO Suzanne Wylie reflected on the lessons she has learned from the year-and-a-half she has spent in the island's top job...

Appearing before a panel of politicians at a Scrutiny hearing this week, Mrs Wylie outlined some of the biggest challenges of the £250,000-a-year role including the level of support, risk management in Government, and job expectations...

Challenge: Systems and support not "mature enough"

Answering a question from the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Deputy Lyndsay Feltham, about the "biggest challenges of the role", Mrs Wylie explained: “I think that some of the challenges have been the fact that some of the systems, infrastructure, and support mechanisms around the CEO aren’t mature enough yet in the organisation.”

She added that her predecessor, Charlie Parker, had “reported something similar” in his final reflections on the CEO role. Mrs Wylie added that the systems have “moved on since then”, but admitted that there is “still has a way to go”.


Pictured: Mrs Wylie said that some of the biggest challenges of the role resulted from the systems for support around the CEO not being mature enough – a sentiment echoed by former CEO Charlie Parker in his closing report.

She explained: “The support mechanisms and systems and data and information around the CEO to enable them to do this incredibly wide job – the scope and scale of it is really significant – so everything needs to be there at your fingertips. Those mechanisms still need to mature.”

Describing the system as "fairly complex", Mrs Wylie said: "It took me a while to get that level of insight and work out what relationships I needed to have with who."

She added that she would like to help the new CEO "hit the ground running" by providing “insight into exactly what is needed where”.

Challenge: Crisis upon crisis

Another challenges that Mrs Wylie described in the public hearing was trying carry out the day-to-day role alongside obstacles such as the change of Government, cost of living crisis, and the local tragedies which took place in December.


Pictured: Mrs Wylie added that it was difficult to carry out the day-to-day demands of a role whilst also dealing with additional challenges such as the cost of living crisis.

Mrs Wylie also pointed to the number of vacancies in Government as a "significant challenge". 

She explained: "Having the right people in the organisation and being able to recruit to the frontline positions that we really need is a significant challenge as well.

"When you’re responsible for ensuring there are good services and speedy services... you can’t operate without the right people.”

Challenge: Risks that "keep me awake at night"

Mrs Wylie admitted that “risk management and understanding the risks in the organisation” is another significant challenge of the Government CEO role, adding that risk management is a "very important work in progress”.

She said: Risks do keep me awake at night – not having that assurance in the early days of all of those risks being managed effectively. Certainly, discovering some of those concerns in the health service kept me awake at night as well.”

Sleepless night 850x500.jpg

Pictured: Mrs Wylie admitted that risks "keep [her] awake at night".

Mrs Wylie explained that “there are risks in some parts of the organisation that we don’t yet have assurance around”.

“I find that personally difficult,” she admitted. “As a CEO, you absolutely want to know your risks are in the organisation – you really don’t want to have too many surprises.”

Mrs Wylie said the the level of "risk on shoulders" is “quite unique to the system here in Jersey", but explained that a “new scheme of delegation” has been put in place which has “helped to create clarity”.

She added that she believes that the Government is finally taking risk management seriously now, saying: “My plea to new CEO will be that that does not slip back again”.

Success: Government stepping up

Explaining what she was proud of in her time as Government CEO, Mrs Wylie said that she was “proud of the fact that we have improved risk management".

She also added that the Government had responded "really well" to the twin tragedies which happened in Jersey at the end of last year, claiming that the “Government really stepped up to the plate”.

Haut du Mont 850x500.jpg

Pictured: The outgoing CEO said that she was proud of the Government's response the the tragedies that island has faced in recent months, such as the Haut du Mont explosion.

Mrs Wylie said that she was also proud that “we’ve actually held our hands up and said that we are concerned about clinical governance in the hospital, and that we’re going to do something about it".

Changes: Level of expectation

When asked about what changes she believe need to be made to the role of Government CEO, Mrs Wylie said that the "level of expectations and support" around the £250,000 job needed improvement.

She suggested that additional support could take the form of Assistant CEOs or a Corporate Management Board, for example.

Mrs Wylie added that a group has been set up by Chief Minister to consider the changes that need to be made ahead of the recruitment for the next permanent CEO and said that she had shared her thoughts with this group on a "number of occasions".

She explained: "I don’t think that the actual legislation of the role needs to change significantly – I think it’s more about the systems and its more about the support mechanisms beneath the CEO to enable them to do their job.”


Following the public hearing, Deputy Feltham said: "The PAC is grateful to the Chief Executive Officer for her open and transparent answers to our questions, as well as for her work as CEO during her time in office. 


Pictured: Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Deputy Lyndsay Feltham.

"We have heard from the CEO that risk mitigation across different departments, particularly in Health and Community Services, is an area where we need to make some serious improvements. The PAC will be monitoring closely to ensure the correct measures are put in place to make sure this happens.

"Likewise, Ms Wylie’s comments as to where she feels there can be improvements made to the role of CEO were welcome.We will continue to monitor the recruitment process for the new CEO in the hope that these suggestions are taken into account."

What next?

Although there is little more than a month left before her final day on 31 July, Mrs Wylie's interim successor is still yet to be named by Government.

Applications opened in mid-May and a total of 27 candidates applied for role – 10 of which were Jersey residents. The final five were interviewed last Monday (12 June). The Government has not confirmed if any of the final candidates are local. 

As of Wednesday last week, due diligence and contractual discussions were underway. Final approval of the preferred candidate rests with the States Employment Board - the panel of politicians which acts as the official employer of all public sector workers.

The successful candidate for Interim CEO is expected to be in place for nine to 12 months, while it considers changes to the role of the permanent CEO, which Express previously explored in-depth.


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