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Auditor General calls for the improved monitoring of ‘arm’s length organisations’

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BETTER monitoring and tougher challenging of States-funded independent bodies is needed and their targets also need to be more closely linked to ministers’ strategic objectives, the Jersey Audit Office has found.

Karen McConnell

Comptroller and Auditor General Karen McConnell has published a new report on the operation of Visit Jersey, the States-backed body which promotes the tourism sector, as part of an investigation of the Island’s ‘arm’s length organisations’.

The report also found that members of Visit Jersey’s board seem to be overpaid and that chief executive Keith Beecham’s pay package was not formally supported by a job evaluation.

The States funds a number of ALOs – such as Digital Jersey, Jersey Heritage and Visit Jersey – the oversight of which was reviewed in 2017 by Mrs McConnell, where she ‘identified weaknesses’ in how they were monitored.

Afterwards she decided to carry out further work on ALOs, focussing on individual bodies – the first of which was Visit Jersey, which was established in 2015 and is funded through an annual grant of approximately £5 million.

In her new report Mrs McConnnell concluded that the States should set relevant targets for its ALOs in the context of its own ‘clear strategic objectives’. She found that while Visit Jersey targets were agreed, they were not clearly linked to those of the States and that there should have been ‘more effective challenge’ before the targets were agreed.

She also concluded that the States’ approach to the oversight of Visit Jersey has developed in response to her 2017 report and that a more structured approach has been adopted. But she added that ‘more needed to be done to ensure the changes were properly implemented’.

‘Best value for money for the Island is secured when the States have clear objectives and link funding to the achievement of measurable outcomes,’ said Mrs McConnell.

‘This demands rigour in monitoring delivery and a constructive partnership approach with a well-governed ALO. Progress has been made but there is more for the States and Visit Jersey to do.’

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She added that her findings and recommendations should apply to other ALOs in the Island and that the funding of ALOs should not be considered ‘in isolation’.

‘I recognise that the States, as part of the move to a new Target Operating Model, have appointed senior staff with an enhanced focus on partnerships,’ she said. ‘This gives an opportunity to strengthen the States’ approach across a wide range of ALOs, including Visit Jersey.’

In her report, Mrs McConnell also made some ‘initial observations’ on the pay levels of the Visit Jersey board.

She concluded that the non-executive [advisory only] directors appeared to be overpaid compared to elsewhere, including those who operate on the board of VisitBritain, and that remuneration of the chief executive was ‘not supported by a formal job evaluation’.

The Comptroller and Auditor-General is planning to carry out further work on the remuneration of ALO board members, which is due to be published next year.

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
author

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