Rumours over credit card use cost me my job, says Ozouf
SENATOR Philip Ozouf says rumours over the use of his States credit card were the real reason he was sacked from political office last year.
The politician was this week cleared by the Commissioner of Standards of breaching codes of conduct over the use of his card to purchase a flight and a hotel room.
A separate investigation by the States police last year was also dropped.
The commissioner’s report was released almost eight months after Senator Ozouf was dismissed as Assistant Chief Minister by Chief Minister Ian Gorst on the day that the Island’s most senior politician faced a vote of no confidence.
At the time it was believed the sacking was a means to appease Members who were angered by Senator Ozouf’s return to the ministerial ranks after he briefly stepped down following the Jersey Innovation Fund scandal.
But Senator Ozouf has today said it was a result of speculation over his use of the card – and manoeuvrings by ministers.
‘The real reason I was dismissed was that rumours were circulating about wrongdoing with regard to my expenses. I was not dismissed because of the Innovation Fund – I was exonerated with regard to that,’ he said.
‘But I have no malice towards Ian and I still absolutely support him. He was faced with no choice. The majority of ministers wanted me out and in the end they succeeded.
‘How can I have malice against a guy who needed to ensure that Jersey had a Chief Minister in place as the Island went into the Care Inquiry report? If I had to take one for the team, then so be it. Do I like what happened to me? No, of course not.
‘Have I had a good year? No, it has been a living hell and the toll it has taken on me and those close to me has been a heavy one. But it’s over now,’ he added.
The commissioner found that the Senator made a ‘genuine mistake’ when he used his States credit card to book the flight. He also found that the Senator’s use of the card to book a hotel room in Gatwick to ensure he got on a flight back to Jersey the following day was done in good faith. Senator Ozouf later paid for both transactions.
The report revealed for the first time that it was former States chief executive John Richardson who made the complaint to the commissioner and triggered the investigation.
‘I was surprised and disappointed that he made a complaint about me. All I had before that was some sort of semi-interrogation,’ said Senator Ozouf.
‘I accept that the public have to have confidence that ministers and assistant ministers are spending public money wisely. But I never believed for one minute that I did anything that was not in the public interest.
‘The sadness for me is that I was not able to continue with the job that the public elected me to do. I was not able to continue the job of safeguarding the finance industry, boosting competition and progressing digital. That is a real shame for me,’ he added.
Meanwhile, a freedom of information response issued last year has been amended after a number of the Senator’s expenses claims were reclassified as legitimate business expenses.
In a statement, Chief Minister Ian Gorst said: ‘The independent Commissioner for Standards has now cleared Senator Ozouf of having breached the Ministerial Code.
‘He found that the Senator was an extremely busy individual, who made a genuine mistake with the administration of some expenses. The commissioner noted that the public service is fortunate to have the participation of busy and committed people such as Senator Ozouf.
‘A further analysis of Senator’s Ozouf’s expenses has been undertaken, as outlined in the FoI response provided in June 2017. This FoI data has now been reissued in a corrected form to take account of the reclassification of a number of items as legitimate business expenses.
‘Now that Commissioner for Standards has finished his work, I will be implementing a new framework to support ministers in the processing of their expenses.’