Chief executive is ‘clear that ministers tell him what to do’
STATES chief executive Charlie Parker is ‘very aware of the division’ between his role and the political sphere and has not overstepped the boundary, the Chief Minister has said.
During a Scrutiny panel hearing reviewing Mr Parker’s OneGov strategy for States reform, Chief Minister John Le Fondré said the chief executive was ‘very clear’ that his job was to implement the decisions of ministers.
Concerns have been raised about the influence and power Mr Parker holds, particularly following a 2018 States decision which made the chief executive the accounting officer for public sector finances.
When asked about Mr Parker’s role by Deputy Kirsten Morel, Senator Le Fondré said: ‘I think the chief executive is very clear in his understanding that ministers tell him what to do.’
He added that Mr Parker had not overstepped the mark ‘in my experience to date’ and that political statements made by the chief executive supported government policy.
‘I think he is very aware of that division,’ the Chief Minister said. ‘I don’t have a problem with a civil servant giving support to a ministerial policy.
‘We need to make sure that not only the chief executive but the civil service as a whole does know that it is ministers and politicians who run the Island and it is the civil service that implements those decision. They do advise ministers and ministers can accept the advice or ignore the advice.’
When pressed about whether Mr Parker was right to write to teachers at the height of the long-running pay dispute – a move described as ‘inflammatory’ by panel member Deputy Rob Ward – the Chief Minister said Mr Parker had an ‘operational responsibility’ to the workforce.
Teaching unions the NEU and the NASUWT said Mr Parker’s letter to all teachers outlining the next steps in the negotiations jeopardised the talks. The NEU have since agreed to the States Employment Board’s pay offer, although the NASUWT are still involved in a dispute.
Mr Parker added: ‘As head of the paid service you have to do those things and sometimes it is very clear that the role of the States Employment Board is to set policy, but the implementation of that rests with the head of the paid service.’
The chief executive also revealed that elements of the target operating models he wants to implement across the civil service had been delayed slightly due to a combination of States decisions, ‘logistical problems about getting some of the experience on-Island’ and following consultation with staff. In an ideal world I would rather have got that through quicker, because uncertainty doesn’t help staff. The reality is we listened to staff, who want the thing to be completed, but they also want to be part of it,’ he said.
The OneGov Review Panel comprised Constable Karen Shenton-Stone, Senators Kristina Moore and Sarah Ferguson and Deputies Morel and Ward.