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Friday, 3 June 2011

"States Recruitment Probe Hampered By Treasury"


Baroness Ford

A panel's investigation into the fairness of recruitment to a States panel claim their conclusions have been hampered by the Treasury Department.

The Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel have been tasked with looking into claims of bias when appointing the Chairman and non-executive directors for the newly-created States of Jersey Development Company.

The Company is due to take over from the Waterfront Enterprise Board.

The Treasury and Resources department had wanted to appoint Baroness Margaret Ford as Chairman of the States of Jersey Development Committee. The Baroness, who will be responsible for deciding what to do with the London 2012 facilities when the Olympics are over, was a front-runner for the position but withdrew from the process at the end of March.

Her withdrawal came a after week there was uproar from some members of the Jersey Appointments Commission - who oversaw the recruitment process - over how some appointments have been made and some had threatened to resign.

Deputy Phil Rondel had implied job offers for the States of Jersey Development Company were a foregone conclusion.

The Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel point out that they found no evidence to indicate any bias towards any individual candidate. However, they did say their investigations have been hampered by the Treasury Department's failure to be transparent.

The Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel say: "A far more complete report could have been produced had the Treasury and Resources Department engaged with the review in an open and transparent manner. Their failure to do so has left the sub-panel with unanswered questions, particularly when there have been inconsistencies between various pieces of evidence provided.

"Whilst there is no evidence to indicate any bias towards any individual candidate, it must remain very clear that the sub-panel has not received all of the information or explanations it requested. The sub-panel has therefore been unable to fully conclude on this matter."

The company was due to take over from the Waterfront Enterprise Board earlier this year, but concerns were raised by politicians that the recruitment process was flawed. It was suggested that at least one appointment was a foregone conclusion.

The scrutiny report says there is no criticism of either the candidates or the Jersey Appointments Commission which, says the panel, "acted with the integrity and professionalism that one would expect of their role."

Instead the report points a finger of blame elsewhere. It says: "There were shortcomings in the process, and in expectations held by States members concerning their roles. Administrative failures outlined in the report, were, it appears, the responsibility of the States Human Resources Department/Chief Minister's Department and not the Jersey Appointments Commission.

"To the extent the sub-panel has been able to conclude on this matter, the sub-panel is of the view that whilst these would have been perceived as unprofessional, they were not of a magnitude that meant they would have rendered the overall appointments recommendations defective.

"It is, however, also understandable why some members of the Transition Advisory Panel felt aggrieved about the process and the way in which their feedback was dealt with by the Recruitment Panel."

Responding to the report's findings, Treasury Minister Philip Ozouf said: "I am surprised to read that the Panel Chairman (a former Assistant Minister at Treasury) in his forward, appears to have used the opportunity of the review to criticise the handling of the Scrutiny Review process by the Treasury Department. This deflects from the main conclusions and is manifestly unfair.

"The Treasury and Resources Department has always had an open and productive relationship with Corporate Services, PAC and Scrutiny in general. The Treasury has built a reputation of going to considerable lengths to co-operate as fully as possible with Scrutiny. The issue appears to have been that the department was asked to provide personal personnel information on the candidates. We were advised we could not to do this without breaching Data Protection. I believe this should have been made clear in the report and Chairman’s forward. As always, the Treasury has spent a very significant time responding to the Panel’s question including attending a lengthy public hearing."

He added: "Despite these comments, I again welcome the principal findings of the report."

While he said he 'welcomed the findings of the report', Senator Ozouf added: "Finally, it is now clear that this important Recruitment Process was properly carried out. It is a matter of deep regret that the fact this had been called into question and the island lost an outstanding candidate in Baroness Ford and then David Pretty."

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