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Business fixer urges politicians to step back from big projects

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TOO much political interference is causing large- scale projects like the hospital to fail and independent bodies have a proven track record of better delivery, a business commentator has said.

Kevin Keen

Kevin Keen, who has a reputation as a troubleshooter, said that large-scale projects could be, and had been, delivered effectively in Jersey – but only when States Members had limited involvement.

Examples he pointed to were JT’s delivery of the gigabyte fibre broadband project and Andium’s recent work modifying and extending the social-housing portfolio.

Both companies are owned by the States but operate independently, having been public sector bodies previously.

‘Personally I do think that sometimes there is too much political interference with some of the bigger projects,’ said Mr Keen.

‘Everybody has got an opinion of where they think the hospital should go but very few of them, with respect, are experts on building hospitals. You have to trust a professional to do the job properly.

‘I think these sorts of things would be better off if entrusted to arm’s-length bodies or public services who were just allowed to get on with it.

‘We pay these guys a lot of money, they are professionals and we sometimes just need to let them get on with the job.

‘I know that is hard but we are just about to start the whole thing again with the hospital and it is going to be really expensive.’

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Mr Keen said that bodies like JT and Andium seemed to have become much more efficient since the States’ influence on their operations had been reduced.

He added that he would prefer it if the politicians stuck to high-level decisions and strategy more often and left the details to professional experts.

‘If you look at what JT have done with the gigabyte project – if JT had still been a States department, do you think we would now have fibre-optic cables in each house? We would probably still be talking about it,’ he said. ‘Sometimes you just need to get the right people, support them and if they don’t do a good job you can fire them. We always seem to be talking about certain things and never getting anything done.

‘Another example to me is Andium.

‘I know not everyone is a fan of them, but if you look at what progress has been made with States housing since they were incorporated – they seem to have done more in the last five years than was done in the previous 25.

‘You want politicians to work on policy and strategy and step back from some of the smaller decisions – I think that would be better for everyone.’

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
author

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