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Innovation Fund: 'It is not all doom and gloom'

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FORMER Innovation Fund board members have defended their handling of taxpayers' money and rejected claims that panel colleagues influenced decisions about loans despite admitting a conflict of interest.

During a Scrutiny hearing on Tuesday into the controversial fund, the Public Accounts Committee heard that all but one of the companies given government grants by the Jersey Innovation Fund were still operating and that arrangements were being made to try to recoup the £2.1 million handed out in loans.

In January, a damning report carried out by Comptroller and Auditor General Karen McConnell found serious failings in the running of the fund and said that £1.4 million of taxpayers' money handed out by the fund was unlikely to ever be recovered. The PAC, chaired by Deputy Andrew Lewis, launched a review of the Innovation Fund following the report.

The report also found that board members took part in discussions about companies despite having a financial interest. That finding was rejected by former Innovation Fund chairman Tim Herbert during the hearing.

He rejected suggestions that board members had influenced decisions despite admitting a conflict of interest.

'Two members of the advisory panel had a financial interest in a borrower that received funding. No members of the advisory board ever had a financial interest at the point where a decision was made.

'It is important to state that every occasion an advance was made by the States, every single member of the panel was required to sign a non-conflict statement,' he said.

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