Machinery of Govt

Digital transformation

In June 2019, the States of Deliberation approved a major policy letter putting in place a new structure to support the provision of digital services, supporting the appointment of Agilysis as a key partner in their delivery. The cost runs to over £200m over 10 years and is the biggest contract the States has ever entered into. Here is the speech I made in the debate.

Sir, I have to say that the amount of time and effort that has gone into this project so far has been truly astonishing. The fact it has taken 2 years to get to this stage, which even the bidders have said has been a process like nothing they have experienced before, should give us considerable reassurance. It appears from the 2018 accounts that it cost the States at least £1.1m last year alone and goodness knows what it has cost the bidders. BUT this is a major contract after all.

AND absolutely essential. From an HSC point of view we desperately need our main software system upgraded but, far more than that, for a complete change in ways of working that investment in technology will enable us to make. From digital by default such as sending text messages and emails rather than thousands of letters, from telehealth and telecare to enable people to enable continual monitoring of their conditions, to the development of the care passport and use of robotics. The opportunities in the health and social care arena are massive. I’m thankful for the effort that has been put in up to now to replace the LAN which will be a real enabler, and the recently successful implementation of the MOSAIC system for Children’s services.

So what I am about to say needs to be seen in that context.

As HSC President I met each of the 2 finalists once. They had different strengths and weaknesses but I came away thinking either would have been partners we could’ve worked with. So, to that extent I am quite comfortable with how the process was conducted.

But, in all honesty, I suppose my concern is less with who we partner with and more to do with the States’ role in the partnership and what it is we think we will get out of it.

And I suppose what has started the niggling doubt is the costs. For me the cost projections don’t add up. Well, not literally but metaphorically.

We are told savings will be made, but it would appear from page 41 not until year 7. The problem for P&R is the Medium Term Financial Plan. Savings have to be made to the bottom line.

BUT it is a clear as crystal, at least to me, that the reform dividend is far from guaranteed.  The system can be more effective and efficient, but will the overall costs really go down? How can they when you see what the partnership is meant to deliver? Improved service support, provision of on-island and integrated data infrastructure, maintaining information assurance and security, building digital capability and capacity?

Rarely will increased IT provision lead to reduced costs and I speak as someone who has implemented a few IT programmes – on time and on budget – with the right team around me. Admittedly on a smaller scale, but a few million pounds nonetheless.

More often than not, IT investment is needed just to stand still. From a business point of view it can lead to increased profits, BUT rarely IF AT ALL does it actually reduce expenditure. Certainly that has been true for the States of Guernsey since it bought its first computer in 1968 and when it was said at the time it would mean less need to employ  more staff. The number of which at the time totalled 2, 827 and the Guernsey Press was recommending the use of more consultants to prevent the increasing wage bill.

Moving on to a related issue,  from what I can work out part of the reason for the increased costs is down to the creation of what is described as a ‘small expert team’ to provide service assurance and strategic direction. At a cost of £1.4m that is quite an expensive small team. It is unclear from the policy letter whether this is existing staff, new posts being created, or a bit of both. Given that we are told there has been little in the way of assurance and strategic direction up to now I am assuming quite a lot of that is more new posts. 

The other linked concern I have is in relation to the governance structure that is shown on page 34. The creation of 4 new Boards on top of the three already in existence sitting under P&R does concern me. It would appear we will have an awful lot of people tied up in meetings, writing up minutes and producing lots of schedules. Being seen to be busy and making progress is not the same as actually doing something.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that a governance structure is required and that there is the right skill set to achieve it. Previous IT projects have been undertaken on skeleton budgets without the right expertise and have consequently failed, costing the States dearly.

However, this is at a time we are told there are at least 200 posts that can disappear. We have already seen additional senior posts created as part of public sector reform and we will see more under these proposals. At the same time, although we are advised of the, quite considerable oversight structure, we do not know individual responsibilities. Who is accountable? Clearly P&R are from a political point of view, as all these new boards report through to them, but who at officer level? We are after all talking about the biggest programme ever taken on by the States.

Nowhere in this policy letter are individual accountabilities, roles and responsibilities set out other than on page 57 in relation to when the online payments system goes wrong. BUT that is after the event. Who actually are the Partnership Board, Delivery Board, Technology Portfolio Group and Technical Service Management Board? There are a lot of people involved, but where does the buck stop? 

This debate may not be the place to talk about individuals who can’t speak here, but I would like the President to confirm that he would be happy to provide members with such information after today.

The final area I would like to focus on is MedTech. 

I can see real synergies with the finance industry as a relatively low risk investment compared to biotech for instance.

However, other than this buzz word being used here and there, there is little to no detail of what the intention is, which is an incredibly broad and wide ranging but also a highly competitive industry.

What I would welcome is that HSC is kept informed in relation to work on MedTech. We are, under our new model of care, committed to innovation. The desire to take part in clinical trials, for example, is there and the need to do so will, I believe, grow, as we seek to ensure we are adopting the latest technologies not only to support future sustainable but also provide the best care to the people of Guernsey. 

Sir, in summary, I can say that a shake-up of the IT provision in the States is long overdue. The lack of proper focus on it over the last 20 years has been shameful quite frankly. This has reflected the lack of appreciation that you need an effective and efficient back office to get fully customer focused frontline services. This policy letter does represent a step change in thought process as far as that is concerned.

However, the key measurement of success cannot be savings to the bottom line. If it is it will fail like all other programmes before it. No, we have to be open and honest with ourselves and understand that if what we want is for the public sector to be run effectively and efficiently as possible on the back of the latest technology, it will cost more. How much more will depend on how well the programme is managed with P&R really needing to step up to the plate to properly scrutinise and ensure that all the promises being made will actually become a reality and working closely with the Principal Committees.

Sir, I am happy to support this policy letter, but I will be taking considerable interest in progress, not just from an HSC point of view, but for the whole of the States of Guernsey.

Electronic Voting in the States

I made this speech when I laid an amendment seeking to introduce electronic voting to the States. I was pleased that it passed.

Sir, Electronic Voting is one of those subjects, like Sunday Trading that just keeps on coming back. Indeed I believe this is Deputy Lowe’s 10th debate on the subject.  I hope that, just like Sunday Trading, today this Assembly will get into the modern age and support this amendment.

Now, the last time this subject was debated was 4 years ago. And I think that we are in a very different place to where we were in 2014 for a variety of reasons and I don’t mean because some of us are sitting in different seats. It is timely not only to debate this again but also to approve the introduction of simultaneous electronic voting.

Now, actually I didn’t vote for electronic voting last time. For 2 principal reasons. Firstly, we were at the height of FTP with a deficit and the purse strings were well and truly tied in a double knot. 

And the other is Deputy Fallaize’s fault. Back then I was persuaded that stretched resources should be spent on improving the parliamentary section of the website. As Deputy Fallaize said at the time,  members of the public should be able to search by specific Member, by parish, by date of vote, by item of vote etc and we are very confident that we can put in place those sorts of improvements during 2015 – and very inexpensively. 

Well, that will teach me to listen to Deputy Fallaize!

Back in 2014, SACC at the time based its policy letter around the need to balance transparency and efficiency. Where that balance had to be set and how it could be measured quantitatively were not considered though.

3 options for electronic voting were put forward – for every vote, only when an appel nominal would have been held, with individual votes not being read out afterwards and (the system used in the other Crown Dependencies) – The default position would remain voting de vives voix. In any circumstances where at present an appel nominal could or must be held then simultaneous electronic voting would be used. Members could ask for the detailed results to be read out.

This amendment is not prescriptive. I prefer the last option but I would leave it to the new SACC to decide. For me it is the principle. In the last 4 years more parliaments have brought in electronic voting. Indeed some have upgraded their systems in that time. As a jurisdiction wanting to put itself out there as a Digital Economy surely we must be leading by example. Indeed, this amendment supports the Digital Framework in more than one area but noticeably in section 7 – delivery of responsive regulation and legislation.

Members, this is long overdue. Do we want to continue to be an analogue assembly in a digital world? OK, it is quaint but I think there comes a time when quaint can become irritating. Since 2014, the numbers of recorded votes have grown as has the paper used by the Greffier and Deputy Greffier. On that front I have been recording the time each recorded vote has taken yesterday and today and I can say the Deputy Greffier is somewhat speedier than HM Greffier.

Anyhow, now really is the time to change and I urge members to support thi

GDPR

This is the speech I made in the States when we debated the introduction of GDPR. This is for anyone who thinks government is too big and there are too many civil servants.

Sir, before I go any further I should like to point out up front that I will be voting for this policy letter. If we are to continue to be an international financial centre, we have little choice. From that opening Members may guess that what I am about to say is not exactly going to be without criticism over what we are about to embark on by passing this policy letter.

Now, outside the financial services sector this subject has hardly stimulated much debate in any media outlet. Not really surprising, it is the latest in a long history of seemingly innocuous policy letters covering changes we have to bring in if we are to continue to be able to provide services internationally. Now what I have to say isn’t in any way a criticism of the work undertaken by the Committee for Home Affairs. In fact I feel sorry for them because they have had no choice but to bring this policy letter to us today. And it is written well and clearly sets out the direction we have to go in. However, the fact is this policy letter and the eventual legislation will have a profound impact on both government and business here. 

Ironically it also demonstrates why those who voted for Brexit to get rid of what they saw as unnecessary laws foisted on us by the EU were completely misguided. We are not even part of the EU but, if we want to trade with that august body, we are going to have to follow their rules.

And what it means is more cost, more bureaucracy and for what overriding benefit? Well I’ll deal with the latter point last.

Let’s look at cost and bureaucracy for a start. 

Aside from the fact that drafting on the GDPR is going to have to take precedence due to its complexity and the deadline for compliance, the ongoing requirements of this legislation, will indisputably increase the cost of government. Here I can say that unequivocally from a Health and Social Care perspective, the impact will be to require more back-office staff. It will go nowhere to improve patient care. 

The public are constantly attacking the States of Guernsey for the number of staff it employs and the cost of them. However, we need to take a long hard look at what those jobs are and why we have them. On the one hand there has been a huge growth industry in the number of independent statutory officials created over the last 10 years, which have grown and grown as outside pressures from the EU and elsewhere have increased their empires. Health and Safety, Trading Standards, Environment Health are perhaps the more obvious, but there are plenty more tribunals, panels and advisory groups out there which are funded by the States. They all cost and that cost is passed on to both businesses and individuals. We really have to ask ourselves whether we have gone too far for a population of 63,000. Has it grown out of all proportion to its benefit? Each statutory official with its own premises and staff. I fully accept that in some areas, the work undertaken really adds value to the Guernsey public, but I’m sure that is not the case everywhere and everytime.

Now I have to say that I have lot of respect for the DPC who conducts her work pragmatically and constructively.  However, It’s obvious from this policy letter that it will require an increase in the size of the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner. We are told, that’s ok as the Commissioner can be self-funding through generating its own income. What that actually means in reality is an increase in the cost of doing business. And that is an increase in cost for all business whether or not it trades with the EU and for whom the legislation will not benefit them one iota.

So, there must be a benefit from this surely? Well, from an economic opportunity it seems the greatest, according to the policy letter is in creating a well-regulated, compliant jurisdiction. That is not an opportunity unless no one else is doing it of course. It’s certainly not a USP. However, I guess the biggest benefit, albeit one that is likely to result in an increased cost, is the strengthening of rights of data subjects. That has to be a good thing especially where people have the right to access their data without having to pay for the right to do so. 

Sir, as I said at the beginning of this speech, I will support this policy letter, because we have not choice. However, I do so rather reluctantly as all I can see is more bureaucracy and red tape, with little additional benefit over and above the legislation we have in place for the vast majority of businesses on the Island. 

The irony of us supporting this policy letter should not be lost here. Many candidates in the last election stood on a campaign to reduce the size of the States. Many spoke about how it was full of pen pushers, what did they do? We should focus on frontline staff. Well today Members we are voting to increase that paybill and on back-office staff as well. It is as simple as that. Which just goes to show how much easier it is to be outside government looking in than inside government and trying to make a difference.

Public Accounts Committee Legacy Report

On the last day of the last States meeting of the 21012-2016 term I presented the legacy report of the Public Accounts Committee. I have been proud and honoured to represent the Committee for 4 years and believe it is in a better place than at the start of the term. My speech is below.

 

Sir, I am pleased to present the legacy report of the PAC for this term. It is not my intention to go through the contents of the report given this late hour both in terms of the time of day and with respect to this meeting. It is a comprehensive record and members are only being asked to note it after all – and more on that later.

What I will do is focud on just 3 aspects of the report and then look to the future.

 

The present Committee had only just put its feet under the table when we were informed of a fraud committed against the States of £2.6m. In fact it was just a month into this term. This States has often been blamed for that event. However, sa I stated at the time the Committee published its report into the states of financial controls and risk management at the time, this was an incident waiting to happen.

Reports produced int he past, including those of previous PACs has, for whatever reason, been ignored. I am pleased that this States has acted on the findings of this PAC’s report which reflects the understanding particularly of the CM and PSD Minister of the time and the T&R Minister, in particular, as to the seriousness of the issue, as well as the pressure from the Committee to ensure our recommendations were acted upon.

Our second report on financial controls demonstrated the improvements made. However, the Committee is concerned that the focus on risk management will be lost as attention turns to public service reform. It is therefore critical that the Scrutiny Management Committee monitors developments closely.

I would no like to turn to the FTP, which has dominated much of this term. The Committee ha spent a considerable amount of time reviewing progress, or otherwise, of what was one of the most significant programmes of work ever undertaken by the States of Guernsey. The Committee took various approached in order to cover off various aspects of what was a complex area.

The Committee on a regular basis called in the T&R Minister and officers for updates as well as having a direct input on improving reporting for the Policy Council. The cost/benefit review which looked at the largest projects in the FTP acknowledged that savings has been made and found evidence of some excellent initiatives but expressed concern over some of the calculations and, more importantly whether certain savings would indeed be sustainable. And in addition, the Committee fought vociferously and successfully against the payment of commission to the consultant in respect of a transfer of £650k from general review to the Guernsey health service fund as it did not represent a saving to the taxpayer.

Finally, in relation to the FTP and subsequent to this report, the Committee held a public hearing where it questioned the T&R Minister and States Treasurer principally on the legacy of the programme and lessons learnt. More particularly on the transformational aspects.

I would like to thank the Minister for his openness at that hearing and I would recommend that the Hansard record be read by those involved in the Public Service Reform, both politicians and officers. I want to see public service reform work. I think we have a great opportunity to make it work but we need to understand lessons learnt.

Much of the Committee’s work as, by necessity, to be undertaken behind the scenes, this has included developing a more robust annual audit and accounts production process, providing greater value for money for the taxpayer as well as providing advice and recommendations which have considerably improved the States of Guernsey’ financial and resource management policies and procedures.

The last are I would like to focus on is post implementation reviews. Sir, recent headlines implied that projects undertaken by this States has been wasteful. However, I think it is important  to make clear that several projects we looked at took place in the previous term and one, the airport terminal , over a decade ago. There has been a significant improvement in the management of projects since then. However, it is true that lessons do still need to be  learnt and money is still being spent unnecessarily. It is for that reason that the Committee recommended that the Policy & Resources Committee in the next term look at placing PIRs in the public domain.

Before ending, I would like to leave a message for the future SMC.

 

  1. Firstly, work together as a team. It has been a pleasure working with a bunch of intelligent people who have worked together, can have robust conversations, but listen and respect each other’s views and come to a consensus. The PAC has certainly demonstrated that it can be done. We live in a consensus system and it is as important for the SMC as it is for every other Committee of the States. I just hope that continues in the next term.
  2. Secondly, don’t follow your own personal agenda. This will be even more important to be aware of where the whole scrutiny function is concentrated in just 3 Deputies and 2 Non-States Members; and
  3. Thirdly, Remember that what you want is to make government perform better. That can mean a balance between making a quick headline and working behind the scenes to make things happen. A recent report into the effectiveness of Westminster select committees in the last term stated that whist some committees took the big bang approach, they did not necessarily produce long term improvements. In fact it can lead to the bunker syndrome. A balance needs to be struck.

 

Sir, finally, and without wanting to make this sound like an Oscar acceptance speech, I would like to thank all those members of the Committee during this term. It has been a realtievely stable committee with changes only arising from the untimely death of Alderney Rep Paul Arditti and the departures of Deputies James and Le Clerc for an easier life on HSSD. I thank everyone for the positive contribution they have all made.  I have been honoured to represent you in this Assembly.

There is an old adage that says, It should be noted that if you have something to note, then note it. Do not note that the item you wish to note should be noted. With that in mind, I ask members to note this report.

Increasing the Powers and Resources of Scrutiny

The Public Accounts Committee and Scrutiny Committee laid a joint policy letter to the States at the February States meeting. This was very important to me as I had wanted to increase the powers and resources of the scrutiny function before I was elected and everything I have witnessed since I was elected as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee demonstrated to me why this was necessary.

I am pleased that the policy letter was passed, with an amendment on funding that we did not oppose. This means that the new Scrutiny Management Committee will be better placed under the new machinery of government. Below is my speech.

 

Sir

This policy letter arises from an amendment placed by myself and the Chair of the Scrutiny Committee to ensure that the powers and resources of the new SMC were agreed before the end of this term. We could have decided to go with the original proposals in the SRC report, stating that this should be left to the new Committee to consider. However, we believed that it was important that it should be able to hit the ground running and get changes put in motion as soon into the new term as possible.

It is important to stress at the outset that this States has already agreed the structure of scrutiny that it wants for the future and that it should have more powers and resources. This policy letter is therefore following the direction of the States in setting out what it believes those powers and resources should be.

It is also important to make it absolutely clear that what we propose is not a pick and mix; our proposals set out the minimum requirement to give effect to the new scrutiny structure and reflects our 4 years of experience and more in some cases, of the current system.

We have concluded that specific areas require significant strengthening to ensure that effective scrutiny can be provided.

I am not going to go over all these now, they are clearly set out in the report, but I will focus on some key points.

Firstly, the power to compel, or to use the standard term, ‘the power to send for persons, papers and records’. A power that is standard in the UK and other Crown Dependencies.

The  appropriate legal infrastructure will need to be in place to ensure the enforceability and legality of the proposed approach. Powers to send for papers and records are already vested in various statutory bodies today, such as the GFSC, Children’s Convenor and CICRA. In our view, therefore, the drafting of such legislation should be relatively straightforward.

Secondly, rights of privilege should be extended to any person giving evidence to scrutiny panels and hearings.

At the moment a person attending to give evidence, or producing any document to the Scrutiny Committee or the Public Accounts Committee is entitled to the same immunities and privileges as if they were a witness before the Royal Court, whereas a Deputy enjoys absolute privilege. This may have been an error in the drafting of the legislation as it was intended to be provided for in the original Billet.

This will allow witnesses to be able to speak freely to their elected representatives, a fundamental democratic right.

Thirdly, in terms of  visible impartiality we  recommend that a memorandum of understanding should be in place between the Principal Scrutiny Officer and the Chief Executive that guarantees the operational independence of the former whilst providing him or her with the appropriate management support.

To provide the necessary balance, the Principal Scrutiny Officer must ensure that, any review undertaken complies with the SMC mandate, provides value for money, and is in the public interest. Where a review does not meet these tests, in the opinion of the Principal Scrutiny Officer, the Principal Scrutiny Officer can be formally instructed to proceed by the Committee through a written direction.

Now, we turn to a recommendation in this report that is certainly very timely. That is the ability, in certain contexts, to be able to be review the internal legal advice provided to Departments and Committees.

This is a complex area. However, at Westminster, legal advice has been questioned by Select Committees in certain circumstances. To allow for this to happen, UK Ministers, in effect, waive their insistence on the confidentiality of the legal advice their departments receive.  In the UK, the decision to disclose the Attorney General’s advice on the legality of military action in Iraq, has created a high level precedent which will make it difficult for governments to hide behind the claim that ‘we never make public the advice of our Law Officers’. To those who argue that this was an exceptional case, I would respond that the only thing that was exceptional about it was the level of political pressure which forced eventual disclosure.

Something to consider in light of recent events.

It is clear to both current Committees that the content and rationale of the advice provided to politicians and staff by the officials within St James’s Chambers, should be subject, when appropriate, to review by Parliament. And, standing here occupying the place he used to take I am reminded that this is something that the Late Alderney Representative Paul Arditti felt very strongly about it. I do think it is sad that he can’t be taking part in this debate.

 

Yes, the mechanisms need to be thought through carefully. However, a complete bar on the ability to scrutinise legal advice, is inconsistent with the principles of openness and transparency that lie at the heart of good government. The scrutiny arrangements and perhaps as importantly, the culture within government, must allow for parliamentary oversight of this type of material when it is appropriate.

Both Committees have also expressed a desire for additional clarity in situations where there is uncertainty as to whether advice is legal advice, or rather advice from a Law Officer on a non-legal matter. We believe that guidance on this matter should be clearly drawn to avoid a situation where appropriate parliamentary scrutiny is blocked by the refusal to release advice from a law officer on a non-legal matter.

Legal advice given to States Departments and Committees is primarily provided by the Law Officers of the Crown and lawyers working under their direction at the Law Officers Chambers. Where advice is given by a lawyer to a private or commercial client, that client could decide to “waive” privilege at their discretion and disclose the contents of the advice. However, different considerations arise in relation to advice given by, or on behalf of, a Law Officer to Departments, Committees and other public office holders.

However, as was demonstrated in the disclosure of Lord Goldsmith’s advice on the legality of the war in Iraq and of Jeremy Wright’s own recent advice on the legality of RAF drone strikes on British ISIL targets, there are “exceptional” circumstances when at least the fact of giving advice is disclosed. For the reasons set out above, it is suggested that the situation in Guernsey should mirror that described in England and Wales and, as that approach changes, so should ours.

The key point here is that in certain circumstances it should be possible to view the advice that led directly to decisions being made. This may be very rare but it is also essential. Advice is just that – advice; Boards take the decisions. And if political scrutiny is to mean anything, it has to be able to test the judgements which Boards have made based on the advice they have received.

 

So, last, but by no means least, we get onto the sticky matter of funding. It is very difficult for me, as Chair of Public Accounts Committee to come here and request extra money, but I knew that would inevitably be the case at the start. I would hazard a guess that all members would have expected that, more powers and resources would come at a cost. But, remember, it is not about cost, rather value for money. It will not mean more of the same, but the ability to undertake urgent hearings and respond faster than is possible at present. We are only going to get a stronger scrutiny function if we allocate more resources to it.

 

If this assembly wishes to have effective political, financial and legislative scrutiny then it will cost more money. If members believe that this level of additional expenditure is unjustifiable then so be it, but please do not then constantly reprimand the new SMC for not addressing the numerous areas of public concern that arrive throughout the next political term. This month and next we will be debating areas of huge strategic importance: the alphabet soup of SLAWS, CYPP, SCIP as well as Waste, perhaps CHP and dare I say education?

As things stand the current resources are woefully inadequate. From a financial scrutiny perspective alone, we have just 3 staff to scrutinise 1/2bn of States general and SSD annual expenditure. That’s when no one is ill or on holiday. Compare that with Jersey with spends nearly £800k on the Auditor-General’s office, £311k on Scrutiny, excluding staff costs which are probably a conservative £500k, plus a dedicated building and all that excludes the child abuse enquiry for which £20m has been set aside. Yes it has a ministerial system, but that doesn’t mean that scrutiny should be funded any the less. And in the next term, with a more powerful centre and fewer Deputies, a stronger scrutiny function will become even more important.

It’s not as if what we are asking for is unreasonable. It represents 3 more staff, one of which is for legislation, which currently has no resource and £150k for specialist advice which will be necessary as the SMC focuses on complex areas, where generalist knowledge will be inadequate.

And don’t forget the Deputy resources that will be lost from scrutiny as a result of the new machinery of government. In fact, we have calculated that the loss in terms of Deputy and Non-States members’ time comes to the equivalent of £191k.

Also, remember that in the last budget we agreed to pay an extra £900k for SCIP programme and £200k for additional Policy Council resources. Why is that OK, but not the resources to scrutinise it?

 

As William Gladstone famously pointed out – ‘Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feeling for the strength of their argument. The heated mind resents the chill touch and relentless scrutiny of logic.’

Gladstone correctly identified that many well-meaning politicians cannot see the weaknesses in their own arguments – this is why Scrutiny is so important

And, In the words of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

This is where Scrutiny comes in – no individual member has, or will have, the time or supporting resources to fully investigate a significant portion of government policy.

Independent political scrutiny is essential and a properly-resourced scrutiny system empowers the individual Deputy as a member of a scrutiny panel.

The recommendations made to the States in this Policy Letter provide for a future scrutiny function with greater capacity, powers and resources to ensure Committees and their agents can be effectively held to account by the SMC.

I believe we have provided an appropriate balance in the context of the changing machinery of government and therefore ask that all members fully support increasing the powers and resources as set out in this policy letter.

Constitutional Investigation Committee

I was a member of the Constitutional Investigation Committee, that looked into increasing Guernsey’s power in terms of the passing of laws and ratification of treaties. It was a fascinating committee to be on and I learned a lot about the history of Guernsey’s relationship with the Crown as well as the constitutions of other Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories.

I believe we got the balance right. What we were trying to do was be evolutionary, not revolutionary. The approach was very much along the lines of ‘well it works very well now but we need to firm things up in case things go awry again’.

In simple terms, we said that the Lieutenant Governor should be able to sign off our laws, rather than them having to be considered by the Privy Council in the UK and that Guernsey should have the power to enter into treaties itself. This received unaminous approval of the States. The fun now starts as we begin our dialogue with the UK.

The policy letter from the Constitutional Investigation Committee may prove to be one of the most important in terms of the independence of the Island of Guernsey for many years and I am proud to have been a part of it.

 

SRC – 3rd Policy Letter – SMC powers

I was delighted that an amendment I laid against the policy letter, seeking to extend the powers of the new Scrutiny Management Committee to agents of government, was approved in November. This will definitely strengthen scrutiny in the next term. My speech is below.

Sir,

In a nutshell this amendment seeks to ensure that the scrutiny function’s powers are not weakened, but enhanced, in the next term.

Paragraph 6.1.3 states that the States Review Committee was reluctant to impose too many qualifications on what and whom the Scrutiny Management Committee should scrutinise. However, the duties and powers  of the Scrutiny Management Committee as set out in Appendix 1 only enable it to scrutinise legislation, policies, services and the use of money and other resources for which committees are responsible.

However, under section 9.4.4 of the Stares Review Committee’s second policy letter it states that ‘the powers of the Scrutiny Management Committee would be strengthened further by affording it the right to scrtuinise, and to call in witnesses ane evidence from a greater range of roganisations where are in receipt of public funds or which has been established by legislation.

This amendment merely seeks to replicate that statement.

Without this amendment the powers of scrutiny will be weakened as, to some extent the Public Accounts Committee has powers to scrutinise the spending of public funds provided to other bodies and an example is the review of the contract with MSG in 2011. The powers must explicitly state that the Scrutiny Mgt Committee can continue to investigate public bodies in receipt of states funds, such as SJARS, GHA and other providers.

However, this is not just about money. Members will be all too aware how the government service model is moving to a concept of a partnership with outside bodies. Indeed, the public sector reform document we approved recently makes that clear;

 

‘Civil service must enable government to involve the community in developing policy. A good example of this is SOG’s formal partnership for working with the 3rd sector through the Association of Guernsey Charitieis, the Social Compact signed in Autumn 2014’.

Of course, with policy development with external parties will come outsourcing of those services to those bodies.

The agencies and organisations involved in delivering government policy have evolved significantly since the original mandate was agreed in 2004 when the Public Accounts and Scrutiny Committee were created.

Since 2004 the methods of delivery of government programmes have diversified to encompass third sector organisations, private sector providers and a number of other agents of government, where agents are defined as organisations created or commissioned by government to undertake functions or supported by government to supply services but are not Departments or Committees. In 2012 the government provided grants and subsidies totalling over £30 million to such organisations in Guernsey.

The reviews undertaken by the current Committees have highlighted the problem that agencies and organisations essential to the delivery of government policy or services, which the Committee is mandated to review, are beyond the current remit. As a consequence democratic oversight is curtailed.

A number of agencies and public offices have been created to minimise the risk of political interference in certain types of decision-making. Where agencies have been set up with a governance structure created to minimise the risk of political interference, it should  not be the intention of the Scrutiny Management Committee to introduce it. The changes suggested are not intended to limit the autonomy to act independently or curtail the commercial freedom of any agencies or organisations.

BUT organisations of this type are granted operational independence whilst operating under the direction of government at a policy level. Many of these agencies do undertake functions that should be subject to appropriate scrutiny. In the UK, select committees regularly question government agencies, regulators, and commercial organisations (and their legal advisors) on their activities. This is seen as an essential part of Parliament’s retrospective oversight of the work of these agents of government.

We only have to remember the recent revelations over the charity Kids Company, something that the PAC in the UK recently described as a failed 13 year experiment.

Now, that doesn’t mean what happened there wil happen here, and under our system of government  it would be very difficult to see how that same exact scenario could be repeated. BUT if SMC is to be and I quote from policy letter, ‘be empowered to shape scrutiny as it sees fit, it needs to be able to do so with as much flexibility as possible.

That is why the powers as set out in the report are insufficient and why I urge memebrs to support this amendment.

SRC – 3rd Policy Letter – annual uprating report

My third successful amendment against the SRC report set the same restrictions on amendments to the SSD annual uprating report as the budget. My speech is below.

Sir, a minor amendment, but it is important nevertheless. Basically this requires that amendments to the annual uprating report have to follow the same rules as the budget and be submitted in advance. I suppose the need for this report crystallised itself for me last month, when we debated both the budget and uprating report at the same sitting, but that budget amendments has to be submitted 7 clear working days before the debate, whereas there was no such restriction for the uprating report and we received these right up to a day or 2 before the debate.

But that does reflect the inconsistency of treatment between revenue managed by T&R and that managed by Social Security. We only have to see how in the secondary healthcare debate how HSSD has to come to the States for funding for its half of the costs to negotiate the contract, whereas SSD does not. Perhaps that is for another day, but this amendment at least provides some inconsistency whenit comes to 2 important annual financial policy letter that come to this Assembly.

I urge members to support this amendment.

SRC 3rd Policy Letter – States’ accounts

I laid a successful amendment against the policy letter to ensure that specific time is set aside every year to debate the States’ accounts. My speech is below.

Sir,

I think it would be useful to clarify the effect of this amendment. It is not to set aside a whole day to debate the accounts, unlike the budget. All it does is ensure that the first item of business on the last States meeting before the recess is the debate on the States accounts. That is why, unlike for the budget, it does not refer to the ordinary business starting on the next day. It is presumed that ordinary business will follow on from that debate.

 

It will come as little surprise to members that I have laid this amendment, certainly given in the September meeting I expressed my and the Public Accounts Committee’s dissatisfaction at debating the 2014 accounts in September, the day in fact that the budget for 2016 was published!And it was pigeonholed between other States business.

This meant the numbers were less important than our ability to judge the T&R Minister’s ability as a fortune teller by comparing the foreword to the accounts and budget at the same time.

The effect of this amendment is to ensure that what we experienced this year, and last is not repeated and a specific slot is set aside for the States accounts.

Public Sector Reform – personal comment

I made the following speech on public sector reform during the debate in September 2015.

Sir, speaking personally, normally I have to say that my natural scepticism could have kicked in and I would say that it is a lot of nice, fancy words – ‘motherhood and apple pie’ – but little substance. However, I have already seen the Chief Executive practice what he preaches. The support that he has given the board of HSSD, over the last 10 months, demonstrates that quite clearly and gives me the confidence that this document will not gather dust.

I totally concur with paragraph 6.6. We Deputies should have less day-to-day involvement in the delivery of public sector services, but that public servants need to provide appropriate financial management and performance information to provide assurance to the boards – committees, I suppose we are meant to call them in the future – that those services are being run effectively and efficiently and in accordance with all relevant legislation and professional standards.

Now, that is all very well and good, but when it goes wrong we get the brickbats. Just witness the sea front changes. This is not an area of high level strategy and policy; it is about where lines are painted on a road.

Under this scenario, we should have been seeing officers dealing with the complaints, not the Ministers of Environment or PSD. Whether that will ever happen, I am far less certain, but to enable it to happen there needs to be trust. That does not mean that we, as politicians, should not continue to challenge and, despite what some might think, every Deputy with whom I have been on a board or committee these last few years has challenged management and should continue to do so. That is how positive change will happen, so long as the challenge is constructive, of course.

Finally, I would like to touch on the need to embrace technology. I believe that the appointment of a Chief Information Officer has already resulted in positive change through an expert ‘can do’ mind-set that gives me hope good things will happen. We only scratch the surface of what can be done with new technology at the moment, but it has the potential to provide real transformation, from telemedicine and telehealth, to enabling people to access services 24/7.

So will this work? After all, it is an immense programme. It is going take a leap of faith but, frankly, I do believe that is what we have to do. The key is leadership. Change will come from a change of culture at the top, with the engagement of those below. It is a mighty difficult job to do but, from this document and what I have witnessed in the last 10 months, I do believe that it is a risk that has to be taken and I, for one, hope that it succeeds.



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