Guernsey Press

Senior P&R staff kept quiet for two months on PEH costs

Senior staff at Policy & Resources knew about the soaring costs of redeveloping the hospital for more than two months before telling their committee members.

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(Picture by Sophie Rabey, 33236137)

The £30m. increase in the estimated cost was known to ‘a limited number’ of P&R officials last year, but P&R's politicians were not told until February this year.

This means P&R members were kept in the dark by their own senior staff during the period when they had to lead the States Assembly through key debates about public finances and large capital projects.

The revelation, released late yesterday, was teased out by Rule 14 written questions submitted by Gavin St Pier two weeks ago.

‘A limited number of senior officials were made aware of the potential cost challenges during November and December 2023,’ said P&R president Lyndon Trott.

‘Initially, this was highlighted informally through line management channels as a risk, acknowledging that further work was being undertaken to better understand whether there was in fact a material challenge beyond price fluctuations which are to be expected throughout the programme cycle.’

The officials received what were described as ‘more formal briefings’ about the soaring cost estimates for phase two of the Princess Elizabeth Hospital project at the end of January.

‘Some of these same officials were advising the committee on its preparations for the Government Work Plan debate [in January],’ said Deputy Trott.

‘For the avoidance of doubt, the P&R Committee was first advised on 13 February 2024.’

It was already known that some members of staff at Health & Social Care were aware of the 25% increase in estimated costs – from £120m. to £150m. – as far back as February 2023 and concealed it from HSC committee members until December 2023.

However, yesterday’s revelation was the first admission that senior officials outside HSC also knew for some of that period and played a part in leaving politicians uninformed for those critical States debates.

HSC has said that the staff who knew in February 2023 were no longer employed by the States.

In his Rule 14 questions, Deputy St Pier also asked for more details about the circumstances of their departures.

‘The circumstances surrounding their departure are private to the States and those individuals and, therefore, in accordance with established practice, no further details may be given,’ said Deputy Trott.

‘P&R would, however, reiterate previous comments made by the head of the public service [Mark de Garis] that the conduct of a limited number of officials fell significantly short of required standards and would stress that appropriate policies and procedures are in place to deal with matters of this kind.’