Departure of statistics head worries Island political figures

THE departure of the head of Statistics Jersey has been described as ‘baffling’ by the political leader of Scrutiny, after reports that he left after raising questions about the organisation’s independence.

Dr Duncan Gibaut during a media briefing in 2015. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30018662)
Dr Duncan Gibaut during a media briefing in 2015. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30018662)

Dr Duncan Gibaut is understood to have left his role running the unit in November following 20 years of service.

It has been reported that prior to his departure he had raised concerns over its independence, before being put on ‘gardening leave’ without an official announcement being made – a move that has been questioned by Senator Kristina Moore.

Statistics Jersey regularly produces independent analyses of government data, such as weekly updates on the economy during the Covid-19 crisis and regular reports on the housing market and unemployment.

In 2018 a new law was introduced which was designed to give the organisation – formerly known as the States of Jersey Statistics Unit – professional and operational independence in producing official statistics.

Following claims about the departure, Senator Moore, Assistant Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel and former Treasury Minister Philip Ozouf all said there were questions to be asked.

‘Duncan was a very respected person and led the Statistics Jersey unit for a long time. He always made it very clear that the remit was there to be an independent body,’ said Senator Moore.

‘For example, they would set the dates that they were producing regular information. Those were never moveable because he felt very strongly that it was a core part of their role not to be swayed by government desires to control the sharing of information. It is quite baffling that such a dedicated and long-standing civil servant, who was a local man, would leave in this situation. He always conducted himself with the utmost integrity.’

She added that she was concerned by claims about a ‘veil of secrecy’ surrounding the departure.

‘Why wasn’t this drawn to anyone’s attention? It’s so strange and just seems to be part of the pattern of behaviour that we keep seeing,’ she said.

On social media Deputy Morel said the claims around Dr Gibaut’s departure were ‘appalling’. ‘Dr Gibaut was an incredible asset to the States of Jersey and a man of the highest integrity,’ he wrote.

Ex-Senator Mr Ozouf, meanwhile, said the reports were ‘extremely concerning’.

‘Jersey’s Statistics Unit were universally respected by politicians on all sides, especially the chief statistician,’ he wrote.

‘Their impartial reports were independent, factual and relied upon on by Islanders, businesses and media. This needs serious investigation.’

A statement released by the States Employment Board in relation to Dr Gibaut’s departure says that it cannot comment on individual cases.

It says: ‘The SEB has approved the establishment of a new post – director of statistics and analytics. This role will have exactly the same independence as that of the chief statistician, but will operate at a more senior level in the public service.

‘The post of head of statistics has also been established. This role will operate as deputy chief statistician and so will have the same independence.

‘These changes will provide, for the first time in Jersey, complete career ladders for local statisticians and analysts, from entry level right up to director.’

It adds that work has also started to improve the Statistics and Census Law in conjunction with the Statistics Users Group, which oversees Statistics Jersey.

‘Ministers have always respected the independence of Statistics Jersey and will support any required improvements,’ it says. ‘Statistics Jersey will remain independent, as currently provided for in the law, and our official statisticians will continue to provide briefings directly to the Assembly, the media and other third parties, as they do currently.’

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