Friday, 23 March 2012

Bill Ogley and Philip Ozouf - A Retrospective History

My relationship with the Treasury Minister is a source of significant discomfort. I seem to be unable to satisfy his expectations or at times even understand what is expected." (Bill Ogley, Letter January 2011)

A serious breakdown in the relationship between Treasury Minister Philip Ozouf and former chief executive Bill Ogley led to the civil servant leaving his job with a £546,337 pay-off, a new report by the States independent spending watchdog has revealed.

In a letter to Senator Le Sueur (Chief Minister), Bill Ogley wrote: "Over the last two years a sustained period of interference and harassment by the Deputy Chief Minister and Treasury Minister has made it impossible to do my job to the best of my ability."

Mr Ogley's ability to do his job can be in no doubt. In 2009, two years before writing that letter, he negotiated a controversial settlement that led to the former chief officer of Health and Social Services, Mike Pollard, being paid £129,000 when he quit in September of that year.

At the time, Chief Minister Terry Le Sueur admitted being 'concerned' about the pay-offs and said he would support a "confidential, independent review" into them, which was typical of what, in my opinion, is our former Chief Minister's remarkable ability to sweep anything embarrassing under the carpet. The word "confidential", of course, means that it would never see the light of day, just as Senator Le Sueur's "disciplining" of Bill Ogley later on would also remain under wraps.

On a smaller scale, the first sign of storm clouds on the horizon was the news in May 2009 that Chief Officer of Health Mike Pollard had claimed expenses for missed guitar lessons. The JEP reported that a review of this kind of claim was under way:

"Treasury Minister Philip Ozouf said that the review would ensure that all claims were 'appropriate'. It is understood that it will focus on the procedure used to sign off senior officers' expense claims."(JEP)

According to Senator Stuart Syvret, Bill Ogley "drove the decision to recruit Pollard" and also "never informed the appointment panel that he already knew Pollard and was friends with him." I have not been able to conform this in any documentation, but it would certainly explain why Bill Ogley worked to obtain a good redundancy package for Mike Pollard.

Jane Pollard - wife of Mike Pollard - was also Assistant Director of Human Resources at States of Jersey, and worked together with Bill Ogley. In a Scrutiny Panel meeting on 10 May 2011, Philip Ozouf (also present) mentions "Bill the senior individual who has overseen this extremely diligently and capably, served by Jane Pollard from H.R. (Human Resources)".

It is perhaps not surprising that there is no sign of any breakdown in relationships between Philip Ozouf and Bill Ogley; indeed, given that Mr Ogley was leaving at the end of May 2011, the Senator could, perhaps, afford to be generous in his praise. But what it does show is that there was clearly a close working relationship between Mr Ogley and Mr Pollard's wife, two individuals involved with pay and conditions of civil servants.

Both the excessive expenses claim by Mr Pollard, and his negotiated package for retirement by Mr Ogley, could have easily brought tensions in the working relationship between Mr Ogley and Senator Ozouf. Certainly if there was a close friendship between Mr Ogley and Mr Pollard, it would have been better for him to keep away from any negotiations that Mr Pollard was making, as his impartiality would appear to be compromised.

And in other ways, Mr Ogley also seems to have been working to retain the status quo with regard to the civil service, and hence, of course, his own position and remuneration. In January 2009, the JEP noted that:

The union that represents manual workers claims that it was offered arbitration by States chief executive Bill Ogley at a meeting in December. But today the States' head of employee relations, Mick Pinel, said: 'Bill Ogley did not have the authority to make that offer.'(JEP)

This was when an offer of 3.2% increase was on the table, and the meeting between the union and Mr Ogley was held in the time period when "the [former Chief Minister Frank] Walker employment board had gone and the new one was not in place". In fact, April 2009 saw the announcement of a public sector pay freeze. It would appear that Mr Ogley was trying to pre-empt any such event, and was taking advantage of the hiatus between Chief Ministers to do so. The seeds of a culture of distrust, that Mr Ogley was trying to manipulate matters to his own advantage, could have been sown here.

Mr Ogley also saw himself in the spotlight in February 2009, when Chief Minister Terry le Sueur was forced to admit that States chief executive Bill Ogley had destroyed hand-written minutes of the meeting to suspend the Police Chief Graham Power before Mr Power had agreed that they were accurate; in fact, he did not.

There was an unpleasant feeling that this action of Mr Ogley might have been deliberate, and columnist Helier Clement, writing in the JEP, compared that with a young police officer who had "similarly 'binned' the notes he'd made when arresting a suspect and relied on his subsequently written report", and concluded that

....from the conversations I've had with people who would know about these things that young police officer would almost certainly have been left fighting for his career, yet in the case of Sir Humphrey, well, who knows, because we certainly haven't been told, and as far as I am aware he is still occupying his office in Cyril Le Marquand House and drawing his big, fat brown envelope every Friday lunchtime. (JEP)

June 2009 saw Mr Ogley trying to prevent by a threat of legal action any possibility of his name being mentioned as one of the individuals named by Graham Power which alleged that a conversation with former Chief Minister Frank Walker and Mr Ogley had instigated the collection of files on all States Members.

"The memo claimed that Mr Ogley and former Chief Minister Frank Walker asked Mr Power to compile files on States Members to prevent anyone with a 'shady' past from being nominated to ministerial office." (JEP)

Mr Ogley denied involvement, and Chief Minister Terry Le Sueur defended him, saying "The chief executive has made it quite clear that there is no evidence whatsoever that he has been involved in any way in Operation Blast. I have seen no evidence whatsoever substantiating an allegation that the chief executive officer was involved in the establishment of Operation Blast."

Nevertheless, this was a damaging accusation, especially given the facts that Mr Ogley had convened a meeting of Chief Officers and Civil Servants to discuss the removal of Senator Stuart Syvret as Minister for Health - reported in a file note at the time by Chief of Police Graham Power, but apparently not minuted by Mr Ogley.

BO [Bill Ogley] and the others were persistent and I was left with the clear impression that they were attempting to draw me, in my capacity as Chief of Police, into a civil service led attempt to remove a Minister from Office.

A later report - the Napier report - did not turn up any minutes. The lack of record keeping in that case did not inspire confidence in such statements by the Chief Minister about "seeing no evidence".

None of these matters directly impinged on the relationship between Senator Ozouf and Mr Ogley, but what they do demonstrate is that in any conflict, Senator Le Sueur would probably give more support to his Chief Executive than his Treasurer. They also suggest that Mr Ogley had at least on one occasion - the meeting attended by Graham Power - been acting in a covert manner without liaison with Ministers or records minuted.

But what was a matter of finance came in May 2009, when Bill Ogley and his deputy, John Richardson, said that it was up to the Treasury Department to sort out the exchange rate risk, which appears to have cost taxpayers an extra £3 million on top of the price for the La Collette incinerator. They blamed States Treasurer Ian Black, who would depart under a cloud, even though he was not sacked after a disciplinary hearing. Deputy Daniel Wimberley commenting on this:

...alleged that States Treasurer Ian Black has been made a scapegoat for the errors of Chief Minister Terry Le Sueur, chief executive Bill Ogley and deputy chief executive John Richardson....'It is a shameful story of dishonesty and scapegoating,' said Deputy Wimberley. 'I don't know which is worse - ministers deceiving the States, the Chief Minister deceiving Public Accounts Committee, or seeing the thieves, caught red-handed, pinning all the blame onto one of their number in order to get off the hook.' (JEP)

This was not the first mix-up on finances associated with Bill Ogley's name. In 1997, a report in The Independent noted the following:

A local authority which hived off old people's homes to a private company wasted almost half a million pounds in one year. The district auditor's report found that Hertfordshire County Council had had to secure repayments of pounds 400,000 from Quantum Care, a not-for-profit organisation set up by the council itself, following checks on the accounts However, Bill Ogley, chief executive of Hertfordshire County Council said: "The teething problems of the transfer have not in any way disadvantaged the public or our elderly clients."

January 2010 would more obvious causes of conflict, and fault lines developing, when a Public Accounts Committee, led by Senator Ben Shenton, looked at 2008 recommendations by the States Auditor that could have saved £7.88m per year, and was examining why the savings have not been made. One of the areas was a review of public sector pay, which was also to look at differentials between different grades, and the possibility of simplifying them.

Meanwhile, in February 2010, Senator Ozouf announced his "comprehensive spending review", a series of ambitious plans to cut States spending by £50 million a year from 2012. Senator Ozouf also announced that he was considering introducing a temporary voluntary redundancy scheme and imposing recruitment freezes. Part of this was underway March 2010, when he brought in an interim finance director to help with the restructuring of the Treasury. Clearly, he was trying to put the States house in order, and the introduction of an outsider suggested that the Civil Service was resistant to change.

But shouldn't that have been Bill Ogley's job anyway? So why wasn't he finding and implementing cuts? A letter to the JEP noted this:

A few years ago (three to five years, I think - time flies so quickly, as does the States spending) the government of the Island said that they were going to make savings and were also going to reduce their staffing levels. Why has this not been done? I thought Bill Ogley was brought in a couple of years ago to help to make the staffing savings. Now more high-powered non-Jersey management people seem to be coming in. I think the Island is drowning in management and pen-pushing employees and the manual front-line workers appear to be suffering. This has to be wrong.

June 2010 revealed that chief executive Bill Ogley was among the top best-paid civil servants in Britain. The 2008 Accounts showed that his package including salary and pension contributions was between £230,000 THE growth in public spending over the last five years is down to politicians, not the civil service, according to States chief executive Bill Ogley and £249,999, which placed him between third and sixth on the list of the top ten earning UK civil servants. The question which was arising was whether he was in fact worth all that he was paid, or whether the States were overpricing Chief Civil Servants. Helier Clement, a columnist in the JEP, likened him to the equivalent of Sir Humphrey Appleby from the TV series "Yes Minister".

The same month saw the health department looking for new managers "to help it find the huge cuts being demanded by the Treasury Minister". The Chief Officer, Julie Garbutt said that the department did not have the skilled managers needed to enable it to find the cuts which would transform the department. This was yet another indication of the problems associated with getting the Civil service to try and reform itself, and would end in some redundancies among existing Middle Management, such as Hospital Director James Le Feuvre.

In August 2010, Bill Ogley robustly defended the civil service, saying that the growth in public spending over previous last five years was down to politicians, not the civil service. The JEP leader writer considered that this had some merit, but was dangerously over simplifying the situation:

Although politicians - sometimes by means of a vote in the States Assembly and sometimes by fiat through powers vested in them - take the big decisions, they cannot be held accountable for coming up with anything like all the ideas concerning the course that our ship of state should steer. As Mr Ogley was ready to concede, a great many potential policies and practices originate in the minds and meeting rooms of civil servants. These ideas are passed on to the political executive as advice, earnest recommendations or the sternest of warnings. (JEP)

In Mr Ogley's thesis, however, the civil servants might come up with proposals for cut backs, but it was Ministers who had the final say. This suggests that the civil service management was doing everything it could to find ways of making savings, but in fact, as several writers and columnists pointed out, the proposed cuts were what Senator Ben Shenton termed "shroud waving", suggesting cuts in front-line services that would very likely be blocked by Ministers as unacceptable.

Meanwhile, Philip Ozouf was trying to engage with his own kind of cut-backs. He seems to have identified part of the problem as a top heavy civil service, with too many managers to front-line workforce, and as the JEP reported, was budgeting for a singular redundancy scheme to cut out what the general public certainly saw as "dead wood". As the JEP reported:

Some of the States' highest earners are to be targeted in a major States redundancy scheme being launched today. Every public sector worker was this morning offered voluntary redundancy as part of a programme of cutbacks to find £50m worth of savings. Treasury Minister Philip Ozouf said: 'The voluntary redundancy scheme will be particularly useful for slimming down management.'(JEP)

But barely one month later, the scale of these ambitious plans had been leaked out

Secret plans to axe 15 per cent of senior civil servants and close three States departments have been drawn up by the Council of Ministers. The planned spending cuts, which ministers hoped to keep quiet until after next week's major Business Plan debate, would scrap the Economic Development, Housing and Transport and Technical Services departments. (JEP)

By May 2011, those plans would be dead in the water, thanks to the premature leak:

Leaked plans to cut one-in-seven States managers and axe three departments have been dropped, the States' top civil servant has confirmed. In response to questions under the Code of Practice on Public Access to Official Information by the JEP, States chief executive Bill Ogley has confirmed that the plans - revealed by the newspaper last September -are not being acted on. (JEP)

So who leaked the plans? No inquiry was ever made, but it was not in Philip Ozouf's interest for such plans to come out in such a damaging fashion, and clearly it would have done Bill Ogley no harm for such a leak to emerge. Was he the origin of the leak, either directly or indirectly? There is insufficient evidence to determine that.

But what this leak could have done is to further drive a wedge between Mr Ogley and Senator Ozouf, especially if the Senator believed that Mr Ogley was responsible for the leak. Suspicions can be very damaging to trust, and this would certainly chime with the complaint of Mr Ogley that "he [Senator Ozouf] does not trust me; I am not a team player, he is; I hide things in order to manipulate him and the Chief Minister". Given Mr Ogley's track record on secrecy, is it any wonder that Senator Ozouf might become suspicious? After all, civil servants using leaks to prevent Ministers from achieving objectives has been known to happen in the UK; one has only to read Ministerial diaries to see this.

On the 18th February 2011, a statement from Chief Minister Terry Le Sueur at lunchtime today said that he and the States chief executive had "agreed to a mutual termination of employment". A rough guide to the scale of the pay-off was given by a whistle-blower to Senator Jim Perchard who raised the matter in May of that year. Typically, Senator Le Sueur refused to budge on giving out any exact details, and it would not until this year that the figure would be known, and the reasons behind it.

One thing that emerged was that Senator Ozouf had said that he could no longer work with Mr Ogley if he became Chief Minister. In early 2011, there was a real possibility that the Senator would stand for Chief Minister after the October 2011 elections, so Mr Ogley decided to invoke his redundancy clause, and leave with a massive golden handshake.

The report into the matter by the Auditor General, Chris Swinton, noted that "There might be some substance in the Treasury Minister's complaints about the Chief Executive even though the manner of expression might have been inappropriate."

It is certainly clear that Philip Ozouf's manner towards Bill Ogley was that of someone angry who had perhaps lost their temper:

This all came to a head on 11 January when the Treasury Minister came to see me about the Treasurer's appointment. In a dismissive and aggressive manner he told me he was not happy she had been sworn in, that it was my fault. I had failed him and the CM in handling the budgets; he does not trust me; I am not a team player, he is; I hide things in order to manipulate him and the CM; I manage by fear and everyone is frightened of me; he wants to create an empowered organisation, I cannot do that; he believes I will fail to deliver CSR for him; he cannot work with me and if he becomes CM he certainly couldn't work with me. (Letter)

But the report also notes that the Chief Minister was advised that there were a number of issues which could raise questions about the performance of the former Chief Executive. These for example, included concerns over the handling of the suspension of the former Chief of Police and suggestions of poor morale and dissatisfaction of senior levels in the States.

It does not, incidentally, mention the fall-out over the Napier report, when Senator Le Sueur told the States that he had "disciplined" Mr Ogley, although he refused to say precisely what form that took. It is surprising that matter was not raised in considering any grounds of Mr Ogley's performance as Chief Executive, as surely any disciplinary matter should have featured.

And while there is an Appraisal for 2010 for Bill Ogley, earlier years seem to have gone missing, which under the circumstances does raise the question of why documents can just suddenly and conveniently disappear:

Although the Chief Executive's personal file includes the Chief Minister's assessment of his performance for 2010 (the last review to be undertaken), some assessment for earlier years have not so far been traced.

In almost a repeat of the BDO Report, which was critical of Lenny Harper, but where BDO had not actually contacted the man himself, it is also apparent that Philip Ozouf was not contacted by the Auditor-General. In a tweet on his twitter feed, Senator Ozouf noted that:

I have been asked if I was asked for any input into this report. "No".

Obviously and perhaps naturally, just as Lenny Harper did, Senator Ozouf felt somewhat aggrieved that the only documented criticism of him came from Bill Ogley, with no request for his own input. Consequently, he "re-tweeted" what I posted to all his Twitter followers:

That makes it seem rather one-sided, since Bill Ogley's opinions were made available.

What can one conclude?

It is clear that Bill Ogley clashed with Philip Ozouf. What is not perhaps so clear is the background which led up to the clash. It is certainly feasible, in my opinion, that Senator Ozouf was determined to make measurable cuts in the top and middle management of the echelons of the Civil Service, and that it seemed to him that the Civil Service, and in particular the Chief Executive, was perhaps resistant to those measures.

This perceived resistance may not have been immediately apparent to the Senator, but as time went on, Senator Ozouf became increasingly irritated at the Civil Services inability to reform itself, hence the introduction of an outsider at the Treasury. The leaks on proposed changes would have certainly not helped with issues of trust.

The brief history of events detailed above also indicates how a culture of distrust could arise, and cause a breakdown in relations between Chief Executive and Treasury Minister. While Philip Ozouf clearly tended to become confrontational, and perhaps hectors the Chief Executive in a bullying manner, this seems to have been an outcome of increasing frustration at the apparent thwarting of his measures to bring about change in civil service management, for which he may have blamed the Chief Executive.

Annie Hacker: Reform the Civil Service.
Jim Hacker: Impossible. Catch 22.
Annie Hacker: Why?
Jim Hacker: Supposing I suggested 50 terrific reforms, who would have to implement them?
(BOTH) The Civil Service.
(Yes Minister)

While there may have been no evidence of any deliberate measures taken by Mr Ogley, his pattern of behaviour when it emerged in the public domain (in Napier, for example) did give the impression of a man who could be underhand in his actions. Evidence of this is the fact that he was "disciplined" by Senator Le Sueur, although frustratingly, this is not mentioned in the Auditor-General's report. But that a Chief Executive should be subjected to being disciplined by his Chief Minister shows that there were certainly grounds for mistrust and suspicion of his modus operandi by Senator Ozouf.

The Auditor-General's report is also frustratingly silent on the allegations made of the Chief Executive's behaviour: "I manage by fear and everyone is frightened of me". This seems to have been taken as a baseless accusation; certainly, it was not followed up. Matters are still not as transparent as I would like, and questions remain unanswered.


Anonymous said...

An excellent, well researched post, as usual, Tony.

Why don't you tweet it to Philip Ozouf?

Tom Gruchy said...

Mr Ogley arrived in controversy in 2003 when John Mills was Chief Exec at Policy and Resources.
Although Mills was described as an exemplory officer - he was not appointed to the new Ogley job although he did apply for it - and he did not complete his contracted time either. So perhaps somebody will know if he received a sum of compensation too?
Relevant Q and A's from/to Dep Le Herissier can be seen for 4 Feb 2003 and make interesting reading.
Ogley was brought in with glowing references from Hertfordshire CC where he worked for about 8 years on a salary that commenced at an undisclosed rate - but in excess of £100,000.

Ogley was described as an "E champion" which probably explains why anything that does not move in Jersey can now only be accessed on-line.
A centralised customer service centre was one of his proudest achievements in Herts but the dismal attempt at Cyril Le Marquand House and the lack of so much information at places like the Greffe - and the foot dragging over FOI paint a somewhat different picture in Jersey.

What happened to C Exec officers before John Mlls term might make an interesting project for study and the terms and conditions of the current incumbent John Richardson and any final sum due when his "temporary" job ends could usefully be made public before it happens.
I have asked the current CM but he declined to comment....

Anonymous said...

That is, without doubt in my mind one of the best blogs I have read. Well done.