Guernsey Press

Scrutiny waits for report before deciding next move on 'cover-up'

SCRUTINY will wait for a report from former States lawyer Martin Thornton before deciding whether to investigate a staff-led 'cover-up' of the escalating cost of redeveloping the hospital.

Scrutiny Management Committee president Yvonne Burford. (Picture By Peter Frankland, 33266028)

Some deputies want Scrutiny to launch a full inquiry or at least a public hearing into why senior officials at Policy & Resources and Health & Social Care kept their committee members in the dark for months about a £30m. increase in the estimated cost of the project.

Scrutiny wrote to P&R yesterday about Mr Thornton’s report, which was commissioned by the island’s most senior civil servant, Mark de Garis.

‘The Scrutiny Management Committee has this morning requested that P&R provides us with sight of the Thornton report as soon as it receives it, which we are advised should be in the very near future,’ said Scrutiny president Yvonne Burford.

‘On that basis, we will then determine what further action might be required.

‘Given that the report should be available soon, and on the basis that we are asking P&R to share it with us without delay, we believe that we will be able to make a better-informed decision as to what action Scrutiny might want to take after considering its content and what questions we think might remain outstanding.’

Mr de Garis, the head of the public service, had already told P&R that he intended to publish as much of Mr Thornton’s report as possible, subject to redactions required by data protection laws.

Mr Thornton’s review has extensive terms of reference to look into the next phase of the redevelopment of the Princess Elizabeth Hospital, which was expected to cost £50m. when it was approved by the States in 2019 but now has an estimated cost of £150m.

However, the sections of the terms of reference which have been made public do not explicitly include investigating why senior officials who knew about the most-recent increase in cost – from £120m. to £150m. – concealed it from their committees, and it remains unclear whether Mr Thornton will look into that aspect of the fiasco.

Some HSC staff knew of the latest 25% cost increase in February last year. More senior staff at HSC were told in October. But it was kept from HSC committee members until a few days before Christmas.

Senior officials at P&R knew by November last year but P&R committee members did not find out until the middle of February this year.