What went wrong is the subject of a Corporate Services Scrutiny sub panel that held its first hearings today. Whatever mistakes may have been made, the larger picture is sure to be missed. It is clear that when it comes to re-housing a homeless financial services company, then this has priority over the needs of the public sector. That there should be this deference is understandable if one realises that Finance has captured the island economically and politically. The Council of Ministers exists to assist the interest of Finance - at all times.
The political scandal is likely to turn around the decision by the Treasury to exclude Property Holdings experts in order to renegotiate the purchase price downwards. The desired saving was half a million pounds on a deal worth £8.75m, arrived at after protracted negotiations. Three separate valuations by professionals arrived at a similar figure. The vendors understandably took umbrage when presented with a revised “take it or leave it” offer of £8.25m. When a new purchaser appeared on the scene, having also messed them around previously, but this time prepared to transact swiftly, the deal was lost to the public. Independent valuers estimate that Lime Grove House is currently worth £12m.
Behind the decision of the Treasury to renegotiate will be found the ego of the Treasury Minister and his Assistant, driven as they are by obsessions with efficiency and value for money. Acting tough screwed the deal. The total loss to the public is significant as this move by the Police was the first in a series that would allow a complex jigsaw of changes to be effected.
In the play of wills as to who will be the next Chief Minister, this debacle does not assist Philip Ozouf’s ambitions. The other contender is Ian Le Marquand, who is likely to come out whiter than white from this fiasco – and he has the emails to prove it. This it should be noted is merely an inter-elite squabble. Real change will come from neither.
Hearings continue tomorrow and I will be reporting further on the “Green Street Barracks” saga.
|Jewish Merchant from Podole - photograph by M. Greim 1874|