Charlie Parker's second job not authorised by SEB

THE government’s top civil servant did not have formal authorisation to take on a lucrative second job – despite earlier assurances that approval was sought and granted.

Chief Minister John Le Fondré [foreground] and Charlie Parker, government chief executive (29512076)
Chief Minister John Le Fondré [foreground] and Charlie Parker, government chief executive (29512076)

And in failing to secure the formal approval, Charlie Parker may have been in breach of his contract.

As revealed by this newspaper, Mr Parker was appointed as an non-executive director of real estate firm New River – a role which attracts a £50,000-a-year salary – in September.

Following questions from the JEP submitted on Monday, a government statement was released on Tuesday which said that the appointment was ‘cleared by the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister’.

However, yesterday, it was confirmed that the Deputy Chief, Minister Lyndon Farnham, ‘expressed concerns’ over the role and that the other members of the States Employment Board [SEB] – to which Mr Parker reports – were not consulted or informed about the appointment. It has been confirmed that Senator Farnham did not given his consent to the appointment, despite the statement released by the communications unit on Tuesday saying that he had. The JEP has asked who wrote and who signed off that statement, but has yet to receive a response. The Chief Minister was on leave this week and it has been confirmed that Mr Farnham did not approve it.

Meanwhile Mr Parker has accused the media of distorting the facts.

Chief Minister John Le Fondré has admitted that the initial statement did not properly reflect Senator Farnham’s concerns.

He added that Mr Parker had discussed the directorship role with him in ‘early 2020’ and that he gave ‘verbal approval’ to the government chief executive to accept it.

He said: ‘However, notice of the chief executive’s appointment as a non-executive director [NED], and my approval, was not formalised in writing as it should have been, and members of the SEB were not consulted or informed. This error was the result of a number of factors, including the management of the Covid-19 pandemic, and is regrettable.

‘The chief executive has apologised for this genuine oversight, both to me and to the members of SEB who met yesterday afternoon. I have also apologised to SEB and we have agreed that the administrative shortcomings that led to this situation will be corrected immediately.

‘I repeat that as Chief Minister, I hold senior civil servants to account and expect the highest standards of integrity and commitment to Jersey throughout the public sector. I do not consider that the chief executive has fallen below this standard, and SEB, in their separate statement, agreed that he conducts himself with a high degree of integrity and is committed to his public service to the Island.’

The chief executive’s government employment contract, which was made public in late 2018, almost 11 months after he moved to Jersey, stipulates that involvement in ‘any other service or business whatsover’ is prohibited unless written approval is obtained from the employer – the States Employment Board.

And yesterday, the vice-chairman of the board, Assistant Chief Minister Richard Buchanan, confirmed that, other than the Chief Minister, members of the board had not been made aware of Mr Parker’s director role.

Constable Buchanan said: ‘We were not consulted or informed about the appointment and we have expressed our utmost disappointment to both the Chief Minister and the chief executive. The chief executive apologised to the Chief Minister and the SEB who have both accepted that this was a genuine oversight, which was a rare lapse of focus.’

He added that the board had been assured that Mr Parker would be available to carry out all his government duties, and that the time commitment to New River would be approximately three days over the year, to be carried out in Mr Parker’s own time.

On Thursday, Senator Le Fondré said that Mr Parker would not be paid for the non-executive role and that the fee would be put into a ‘salary sacrifice scheme’ due to go to a range of charities, including some in Jersey. This announcement came almost two days after news of Mr Parker’s role with New River was confirmed.

In a letter from the chief executive to the Chief Minister, Mr Parker commented on media scrutiny of the directorship and said ‘the media and some commentators have chosen to misrepresent the facts of my appointment’.

In it, he said: ‘I can understand some of the questions that have been raised in the media today and I recognise that such criticisms have unfortunately been a theme of my tenure in this post. Nonetheless I want it to be very clear that I will receive no personal advantage from this appointment.

‘As a public servant I have always accepted that public scrutiny goes beyond my professional expertise. I am accountable to you, the Council of Ministers and ultimately Islanders. I hope that you and other ministers and those close to the Covid-19 response will attest not just to my commitment but also, my integrity as a public servant and my absolute resolution to do the best for Island. Sometimes this is at personal cost, often I have limited right of reply to such commentators and the right to correct the facts is lost.

‘My record as a public servant for nearly 40 years both in the UK and now here, has always been about the place I serve. Those people in Jersey public life who have questioned my integrity and commitment to the Island and public service, do not know me. The suggestion that I have given anything less than my maximum commitment to Jersey during this difficult time, or will do in the future, is simply wrong.’

Mr Parker added that he did not consider his NED role to be in conflict with his position as government chief executive.

Senator Le Fondré is due to give a further statement in the States Assembly on Tuesday [3 November].

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