Monday, 9 November 2015

Guest Post by Sarah Ferguson

Part of a strange document called “The Evans” letter has been circulating to States members and on Facebook. It makes a number of very serious allegations against the development of the Jersey International Finance Centre, ranging from extra costs relating to preparing the offices of UBS, to be borne by the SOJC ("sweeteners"), to what appears to be illegal misuse of funds.

I say strange because it appears to be a page of a much larger document, and the author and its provenance are uncertain, as are the accuracy of the claims it makes. They should certainly be investigated however.

And there we hit a brick wall. Supposedly because of confidentiality, and not because of sharp (but legal) business practice such as negotiating special deals for companies like UBS leasing the centre, no figures are available.

This guest post by Sarah Ferguson, which first appeared in the JEP, looks at these concerns.

Guest Post by Sarah Ferguson

How do we "leave our Jersey in a better place"? Lessons from the All-Blacks.

I was oblivious to the world for the last few weekends. As you may guess, like several million others, I was glued to the box watching the Rugby World Cup. For me, the competition really came alive with the quarter finals watching the All Blacks playing France. 

The impressive aspect of the All Blacks was the way the team was playing a coordinated game. Investigation revealed that it comes from the team culture, with a shared vision and values. In fact the culture and training of the team is something which could well be adopted for any business.

As I researched further into the success of the All Blacks, it all started to get very familiar. It has a similar approach to the Vanguard System developed by John Seddon. He developed his system because he was investigating why change programs usually fail. Similarly, the All Blacks revised their training system because they were not doing well.

If an attribute of a great team is the ability to take a step back and reassess what you are doing and to accept that you might not be doing it effectively then what is needed to get an organisation to do this? Is the Masterplan for the Esplanade Development out of date? Should it now be revisited? Is the commencement of the first building speculative? What about the cost of dealing with the contamination?

These are questions for the entire board of the States of Jersey Development Company, not just the executives. Is the Board blindly following the Masterplan and the enthusiasm of the Council of Ministers or is it actually making sensible recommendations regarding policy? Given the current climate of secrecy it is difficult to know.

Why is the Company being so secretive regarding information required by scrutiny? Given the fact that the lease of the land was transferred at £1, it would be surprising if the project could not make an accounting profit. However it has always seemed extremely naïve to try and persuade the Public that the originally estimated £50 Million profit in 20 years time has the same value as £50 Million today. Given that it is taxpayers’ money at risk it is not surprising that taxpayers take an interest.
It seems that we are in a position where we need to adapt to change and where the fig leaf of commercial confidentiality is leaving the tax payers wondering what on earth is going on. There is little sign of promises being fulfilled and the long term vision is decidedly murky.

The All Blacks think long term– they call this “to leave the jersey in a better place”. Where oh where is our equivalent of Richie McCaw so we can “leave our Jersey in a better place”?

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