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States of Guernsey ‘needs better system of governance’

‘Current arrangements do not support value for money services for citizens’, says Auditor General for Wales
The way the States of Guernsey (the States) currently directs itself does not facilitate the delivery of sustainable services that offer value for money for the Islanders. That is the conclusion of an independent review carried out by the Auditor General for Wales, Jeremy Colman.

The review was commissioned by the States’ Public Accounts Committee, which had previously identified that there was a lack of clarity regarding how the States of Guernsey demonstrates that it is providing value for money. The Auditor General’s review concludes that the States’ arrangements do not fully comply with any of the six principles of good governance for public bodies set out by the Independent Commission on Good Governance in Public Services (see Notes to Editors). Good governance is essential if public bodies are to deliver value for money and quality services in a transparent manner.

While the report does highlight areas where the States is performing well - with some departments communicating and consulting effectively with stakeholders and examples of good cross-departmental working, the review found that the States does not have a clear strategic direction or consensus on its strategic objectives and desired outcomes. It lacks the structure for clear corporate leadership and has unclear and protracted decision-making processes – with decisions not always being underpinned by good quality information. The States does not have effective systems of accountability and scrutiny in place and lacks appropriate mechanisms to address concerns regarding the conduct of States’ deputies and staff.

These weaknesses are the product both of inherent, fundamental structural deficiencies in the way Guernsey is governed and individuals being unwilling to accept the discipline needed to make things work.

The issues are interrelated and will only be addressed effectively if considered in their entirety. This would require the States of Deliberation to consider the following two questions:

  • Whether the current structures and procedures lead to accountability and effective decision making; and
  • Whether cultures within the States can be modified to achieve corporate ways of working.

Jeremy Colman, Auditor General for Wales said today,
“Good governance is at the heart of every successful public service but the States of Guernsey is wide of the mark. While there are some things the States does well, inherent deficiencies in the way it is structured need to be rectified if it is to take advantage of the potential benefits available to a small island. Guernsey could become a benchmark for delivering first-class services and I hope it moves forward to achieve this.”

Notes to Editors:

  • This report examines whether the current governance arrangements in the States of Guernsey facilitates the delivery of sustainable value-for-money services for the Islanders.
  • The Auditor General’s review benchmarked the governance arrangements in the State of Guernsey against six principles of good governance set out by the Independent Commission on Good Governance in Public Services in the Good Governance Standard for Public Services. The principles do not dictate that Guernsey needs to follow any particular structural model. They are:
    1. Focusing on the organisation’s purpose and on outcomes for (islanders);
    2. Performing effectively in clearly defined functions and roles;
    3. Promoting values for the whole organisation and demonstrate g the values of good governance through behaviour;
    4. Taking informed, transparent decisions and managing risk;
    5. Developing the capacity and capability of the governing body to be effective;
    6. Engaging stakeholders and making accountability real.
  • The States of Guernsey Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was established in 2004 to ensure the proper scrutiny of the financial affairs of the States of Guernsey. The PAC carries out investigations into States’ departments, whether directly or via third parties, in this case the Wales Audit Office.
  • The Wales Audit Office is independent of government and is responsible for the annual audit of some £20 billion of annual public expenditure.
  • Its mission is to promote improvement, so that people in Wales benefit from accountable, well-managed public services that offer the best possible value for money. It is also committed to identify and spreading good practice across the Welsh public sector.
  • The Wales Audit Office was created in April 2005 through the Public Audit (Wales) Act, 2004, which expanded the functions of the Auditor General for Wales and enabled the transfer of staffs from the Audit Commission in Wales and National Audit Office in Wales to his employment.
Links to report and related documents

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