Guernsey Press

Scrutiny is still waiting for report on capital projects

Scrutiny is still waiting to receive a key report on States capital projects – including the escalating cost of redeveloping the hospital, which officials concealed from politicians for most of last year.

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President of the Scrutiny Management Committee Deputy Yvonne Burford. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 33405335)

In May, the Scrutiny Management Committee was told that former States lawyer Martin Thornton’s report would be available in the very near future, and requested sight of it as soon as it was received by Policy & Resources.

Around the same time, P&R president Lyndon Trott told the States Assembly that Mr Thornton was expected to conclude his report in June, three months after the head of the public service, Mark de Garis, commissioned a review following revelations that a £30m. increase in the estimated cost of redeveloping the Princess Elizabeth Hospital was concealed from the Health & Social Care Committee between February and December last year, and members of P&R from November last year until February this year.

Senior States figures now expect Mr Thornton’s report to be published in a few weeks’ time.

‘The main part of the review is complete and the report is in the process of being finalised,’ said a States spokesman.

‘Mr Thornton has been keeping the head of the public service updated throughout and P&R has also been fully briefed.

'It is currently expected that the report will be published next month.’

Former P&R president Gavin St Pier, whose written questions helped uncover officials’ failure to tell their political members about the soaring cost of the PEH project, claimed the saga was evidence of ‘a broken culture’ in the States.

Some deputies, as well as the committee’s former president Chris Green, have pressed Scrutiny to carry investigate or hold a public hearing with the politicians and senior officials.

Scrutiny president Yvonne Burford told the Guernsey Press yesterday that her committee had recently asked again about Mr Thornton’s report.

‘The SMC has not yet seen any version of the Thornton Report,’ said Deputy Burford. ‘P&R has confirmed that it will supply the Thornton Report to the SMC when it has been finalised. We have been in recent communication with P&R and understand we will receive it very soon.

‘The SMC still intends to review the Thornton Report before deciding whether to take any further action as we consider this will enable the most informed decision making and represent the best use of resources.’

Mr de Garis has 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 PEH, 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 concealed it from their committees. The HSC officials who knew as early as February 2023 are no longer employed by the States.

HSC has said it will try to find ways of reducing the estimated cost of £150m., but if it cannot do so the PEH project will need to be reconsidered by the States Assembly.