At the January 2013 States Meeting I proposed a Motion to Debate the accounts of Guernsey Electricity and Guernsey Post. My Motion was successful, which apparently was the first time this had happened in the States. I gave the reasons for placing the Motion in the speech I made to the Assembly, which is set out below.
Sir, I understand that each of these Motions have to be debated separately. However, what I say now applies to both Motions and I will re-iterate this at the appropriate time.
Whilst I have already briefed Members as to my reason for placing both these Motions to Debate I should also like to place this on record today and elaborate further on certain points.
Under the States Trading Companies Ordinance 2001, the accounts of States trading companies and the reports on them, must be placed in the Appendices to a Billet.
It is my belief that this is insufficient to give the accounts the prominence they deserve. Certainly, as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, this is a concern in terms of accountability and the ability of Members to comment on those accounts in the same way that they can on the general accounts of the States of Guernsey.
Not only that but, in contrast, under paragraph 6(1) of the Financial Services Commission (Bailiwick of Guernsey), Law 1987 the accounts of the Guernsey Financial Services Commission have to be submitted as a report by the Treasury and Resources Minister and I quote ‘as soon as practicable for consideration by the States’.
There is an obvious inconsistency here and I can see no valid reason why States Trading Companies should not also be treated in the same way as the Commission or the general states accounts and be presented in the main body of the Billet where they will be available for consideration as a report by default.
Aside from accountability, I believe that such accounts should be presented to Members in a more timely manner. These accounts were signed off in June and July 2012 and readily available on both companies’ websites, but we only have the ability to debate them 7 months after sign off and 10 months after the accounting year end. This is far too late. The timetable for the preparation and audit of accounts are set well in advance of the companies’ year ends. Indeed, the Department is given 10 days notice of when the AGMs will be held and there should be no reason why the accounts are not submitted as soon as possible after they have been approved by the shareholders.
The Public Accounts Committee continues to strive to ensure proper scrutiny is applied within its mandate, balanced within the finite resources available to it. To this end, I and my fellow Public Accounts Committee members are committed to continually reviewing how appropriate and proportionate level of scrutiny can be applied in the future.
Finally, I should like to advise that I will, on behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, continue to place a Motion to Debate until such time as the Ordinance is amended.