Sack first, think later caused CEOgate

THE only aspect of this newspaper’s page one story on Wednesday outlining the clumsy dismissal of former States of Guernsey chief executive Paul Whitfield that Policy & Resources didn’t confirm in its statement yesterday was the expected cost of its hatchet job.

Sources we quoted put that at around £400,000, including legal fees, and explained it would be that high because of the way the change of Guernsey’s top civil servant was handled.

Now, not only has P&R admitted it has no replacement lined up, it has no process in place to find one either. This is disturbing news for taxpayers and Mr Whitfield. An OBE for services to this community followed by being bundled out of the door for… well, what, exactly?

An interim CEO is in place for the next six months but with no plan of his own, no strategy, public finances in ribbons, a dog of an education system about to be voted through and a massively important restructuring of the public sector – including job losses and possible redundancies – to be steered to completion.

Triggering this situation does not smack of decisive political leadership. It looks, at best, hasty and ill-considered – unless we are to believe that Mr Whitfield’s performance from receiving his award to being ejected last month deteriorated to such an extent there was no solution other than terminating his contract. This seems unlikely.

More worryingly, P&R’s own statement confirms how badly it has handled this situation. ‘The committee intends to give careful consideration over the next few months to determine the detail of what is required from the role…’ it said. In other words, sack first, think later.

More disturbing is this: ‘This is a pivotal position and the committee must ensure the job description and interview process meet expectations.’ That’s code for Law Officers and civil service advisers uniting to prevent a candidate being parachuted in and ensuring proper processes are followed. Jersey, for example, is eyeing up the head of Belfast City Hall to replace its own bulleted CEO.

So however islanders view this, serious questions remain about CEOgate.

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