Today’s meeting of the JDCSPCSSSP was due to start at 3.30 pm and the team players were all ready to start at 3.15pm. This in itself is unusual. Yours truly should have feared the worst.
The atmosphere was a bit like the rutting season in scrutiny-land, with the sheep baring their molars and smiling in a funny sort of way….
As a precaution, yours truly had asked Ken Soar, today’s lamb for the slaughter, if he objected to being vide-recorded. Not at all, he said. I welcome it. The more transparency the better! His assistant from the Appointment’s Commission (James Morris -a surprise and previously un-announced extra witness) agreed.
What a corker yours truly thought – but only very briefly, - because Deputy Le Fondre then leapt out of the Blampied Room sanctum, introduced himself in a matey sort of way and ushered Ken Soar out into the Royal court lobby where they talked for a few minutes “privately.”
The formal Scrutiny game then commenced.
The JEP man took a few happy snaps and left. Yours truly interjected politely that since the witnesses had agreed to be video-recorded, would this be permitted?
Amazingly, Ken Soar and his assistant (who was now sitting like an old Scrutiny Panel pro at the top table and not among the public where he surely belonged) had had complete brain-transplants because they now no longer agreed to be video-recorded.
What on earth had happened in just a few minutes? Had they been nobbled, - and if so by whom? And wasn’t that what this Scrutiny Sub-Panel was about! Oh no – not a plot within a plot….
Deputy Le Fondre (who seemed to be getting ever-higher on his seat) played the same record about official anti-recording policy or Sarah’s Curse or something the same as yesterday and Deputy Le Herissier and Senators Le Gresley, Perchard and Breckon all looked blankly and silently at their thumbs…
Le Fondre started the balling – mostly under-arms - and Ken Soar had no difficulty in bouncing him to the boundary every time.
Scoring was appropriately the first issue for polite discussion. Apparently a unique three Panels interview process had been established with candidates (one chairperson and 5 nodding donkeys were to be selected) to be marked on a 0 to 5 scale. The issue whether there were enough local candidates - or did being a local person trump competence - was also subject to some consideration. But the witnesses stressed that they were adamant that they had got this one right, it was politically impartial “in spades.”
In fact the witnesses stressed that their whole remit is to PREVENT POLITICAL INTERFERENCE but they were somewhat confused why this selection process had become such a focus for political interference including being subject to examination by a political scrutiny panel!!
Candidates from the
UK did not appreciate the level of political interference in Jersey they said and many civil servants returned unhappily and prematurely to the because of it. No names of course. UK
This might be something to discuss in private they suggested…
Then the witnesses proceeded to explain that some scoring was evidently skewed – completely biased in fact, with regard to the NEDs. They had never seen anything like it – scores of straight 5s were previously unknown in the history of the world. One candidate – who was appointed, was in fact, according to the witnesses, totally unacceptable for the job. During the interviews this (local) candidate was asked what expertise he could bring to the task and had answered “none.” No wonder he was appointed.
At one meeting, Chief Minister Le Sueur had claimed that the Appointments Commission was there to “provide political oversight” but Ken Soar had corrected him that their role was “sight” not “oversight.” It’s a very subtle game in staff selection these days!
Regarding the communist plot revealed yesterday, the witnesses explained that the high calibre candidates from the
UK were compromised there by Olympic building projects and so were gagging to come to Jersey.
Also, peers of the realm are not used to being subject to an interview process and don’t respond to newspaper adverts they explained. So they are captured by head-hunters.
There was no public discussion of the “Baroness” and how she might now be replaced. The witnesses did though reveal that they would not do it the same way again, that all politicians were advised that all the paperwork is confidential and should have been destroyed, and that some e-mail communications were probably contrary to Data Protection laws.
The witnesses confirmed that they would make some information from the paperwork available to the Panel in private session only and subject to future confidentiality. And, yes – they still had the score-cards which would normally be destroyed after a year.
The witnesses revealed that are paid at the rate of £340 per day as Appointments Commissioners, have no offices and work mostly from home with some admin provision through the HR Department of the States. There is confusion over some aspects of their responsibilities and accountability. They were not asked if they were being paid to attend before the Panel.
The witnesses confirmed that if the process had appointed Donald Duck then the States could have declined him but that this was one of the several types of incidents where political interference and the related processes needed to be further examined. The “Supremacy of the States” as employer raises certain issues of conflict. Yours truly wondered if Donald had ever been approached by the head-hunters.
Following the concerns regarding these appointments and setting up of this Scrutiny Panel, Ken Soar said he had offered to resign but had been persuaded to stay in post and wait and see what the Report says…..
At 5.25 p.m .the Scrutiny Panel went into Private session to look at two pieces of paper and to discuss any further matters arising. Will they take the lid off the SECRETS BOX?
Shall we ever know?
No announcement has yet been made about any future exciting hearings before this sub-panel but we can only hope that it goes on and on for many weeks to come. We want so much to see and hear our Chief Minister being put to the question and coupled with Pip Rondel’s explanation, this must surely provide the plot for many a festive parish pantomime to come.
Scrutinizers’ scores 0 - 5
Deputy Le Fondre 0 Le Herissier 2 Senator Breckon 0 Le Gresley 1 Perchard 1