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Show us the evidence

Show us the evidence

Monday 02 November 2020

Show us the evidence

Monday 02 November 2020

When Mr Parker took on the enormous task of reforming the States of Jersey’s executive government, he was awarded a £250K annual salary and other benefits. Is the Chief Executive finding time to take on a non-executive role, while his organisation screams out for professional development at all levels, ‘evidence’ of value for money and efficiency?

His 50-page independently produced ‘performance appraisal’ failed to state in numerical terms his value for money. It lacked performance targets as well as any commentary from the States Assembly’s Scrutiny Panels and Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The report nevertheless contained a swipe at Scrutiny. "Scrutiny should be evidence-based," an anonymous source said. "Unfortunately, it tends to be more about people than process." 

The comment is both fair and unfair. The executive government has produced little in the way of meaningful data and transparency that could assist useful scrutiny. So on what evidence can, and should, public scrutiny be based?  

According to the ‘Thinkpiece’ Report of the former Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG) published at the end of last year, holding executive government to account for public spending is not just the responsibility of Scrutiny but the whole of the States Assembly is responsible. So who is advising States Members on their own ‘organisational efficiency’? 


Pictured: Who is advising States Members on their own ‘organisational efficiency’? 

The Chief Executive would have a conflict. The Parliamentary and Privileges Committee lacks experience. The States Greffier lacks a corporate background despite being self-styled on LinkedIn as ‘CEO of Jersey’s parliament’. The States Greffe has a civil service culture of its own, focussing on parliamentary ‘procedure’, reminding Members of their own homemade rules and providing secretarial support.

No-one has been formally assigned to advise Scrutiny on the quality of the questions asked, on what constitutes evidence (as opposed to grandstanding or anecdote), on how to improve evidential rules or to examine it in detail.  

If able to make headway through the stranglehold of ‘process’, the independent senior professionals, who volunteer to serve unpaid on the PAC, could have a perceived value in that respect. If so, why aren’t all the Scrutiny Panels and Ministers served by paid professional staff independent of the executive government with more substantial roles?  

The investigations of the PAC and the Scrutiny Panels often overlap but, so far, only the PAC has the C&AG’s ‘investigative capacity’ and ‘technical input’ as its main resource. Yet it is hamstrung by rules that disallow it from questioning ‘political’ decisions. If the annual grant of over £11 million of public money to arms’ length organisations (ALOs), with a vague aim of ‘supporting the economy’, can be regarded as a ‘political decision’, the PAC can only question if it was implemented economically. 

The Thinkpiece Report recommended improved support of the Scrutiny Panels, better co-ordination of their reviews plus an investment in the development of Scrutiny Officers. 

The time for the States Assembly to appoint a CEO with a corporate background for the sake of improved Scrutiny is long overdue. 

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