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Friday, 10 June 2011
"Pay-offs That Must Be Made Public"
THE barrage of States Members’ questions directed at Chief Minister Terry Le Sueur yesterday on the subject of more than handsome golden handshakes paid to departing civil servants was an indication of just how seriously this issue is being taken.
The issue, moreover, is of concern not only to politicians but to Islanders in general, many of whom will appreciate the bitter irony of so much money being expended on so few people when general belt-tightening is being urged and enforced.
It is, of course, true that the States could not escape contractual obligations involving lavish payments even if those arrangements were made ill-advisedly. A deal is a deal and there is no escaping that principle.
However, based on Senator Le Sueur’s replies in the House, a picture is now emerging of at least one pay-off that was negotiated not before a senior figure was appointed, but after he had decided to quit his post. According to the Senator, this deal was brokered by the former chief executive of the States, Bill Ogley, in negotiation with the recipient of the payment, former Health chief Mike Pollard.
It has also emerged – through the publication of the States Financial Report and Accounts – that, last year, £1.1 million was shelled out in severance payments that had nothing to do with the golden handshakes that were the focus of so much attention at Question Time. Nor was that sum linked to payments made in connection with the programme of voluntary redundancy in the public sector. Why the £1.1 million was paid has yet to emerge.
To his credit, Senator Le Sueur appears to be no more content than anyone else as far as the golden handshakes – apparently amounting to £800,000 – are concerned. Quite rightly, he has said that he would support an independent inquiry into the whole matter.
Less satisfactorily, the Senator is less eager to reveal details of what has been paid and to whom. Given that the money spent was public money, this is unsatisfactory – not least because in the wider world shareholders in public limited companies enjoy extensive rights to access such information. Islanders may not be shareholders in Jersey plc, but they are certainly stakeholders who also happen to pay the taxes which fund all forms of public expenditure. Their right to know is all too often brushed aside by their elected representatives.