Tuesday 26 February 2013
Soft touch Jersey and the Improbable Knights
However it appears that the Police and the Home Affairs Minister are not the only ones to turn a blind eye to wanton waste because it seems that the Economic and Development Department (EDD) is also partial to a bit of wanton waste and can be seen as a “soft touch” when it comes to handing out £200,000 of tax payer’s money.
The matter would have remained under wraps had it not been for a keen eyed member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) who then decided to scrutinise an application for £2million to finance a film. It should have been the Economic Development Scrutiny Panel’s responsibility to have scrutinised the application but somehow it flew under that Panel’s radar.
The PAC has recently held a Public Hearing to question the EDD’s Chief Officer and the transcript can now be found on its website but for reader’s benefit it can be downloaded here.
As one will see that in October 2010 a small group of people headed by an anonymous Jersey resident made an application to the EDD for support to finance a film which allegedly is to be partly filmed in Jersey. The original application was for £2m which is a considerable sum in any one’s language. It appears that figure was just a softener and rather than disappoint the applicants and with money coming out of EDD’s ears it eventually settled for doling out £200k on the spurious grounds that it might be on to a winner.
Unfortunately the chances of seeing any return on its bet oops sorry investment are as good as Arsenal winning this year’s Premiership. The film is supposed to be called Knights of the Impossingworth's. In 2005 a film company with the same name, Canbedone Productions produced a film called Knights of Impossingworth Park.
How successful was that film? There is no mention of it in the Ministerial Decision but it contains so many gaps and unanswered questions so why would that fact be of any interest? It is unclear as to whether the Ministerial Decision was included in EDD’s bundle, but if it was a pity that no questions asked about the ambiguities in the Chief Officer’s evidence and what is contained in the Ministerial Decision?
In the transcript one will see that a group of well intentioned States Members assisted by two members of the public interviewed the Chief Officer, however there did not appear to be anyone on the Panel with a film background, why? They never the less did ask some searching questions which received unsatisfactory answers. There does not appear to be any evidence to support the Chief Officer’s claims. Also when will the documents he said he would produce be forwarded to the PAC and does that Committee intend to hold further Hearings? It certainly should because there are a number of other pertinent questions that should also be asked of EDD’s Minister who signed the Ministerial Decision.
How was money allowed to go into a UK company? It is Jersey tax payer’s money after all. All receipts should be for money spent on the Island. To date it appears that no receipts have yet been produced, why has this been allowed to happen? At the very least questions should been asked by the EDD staff when the first sets of receipts were due, that was many months ago.
There is a mention of a Jersey Resident, who is he? Surely he should have some questions to answer.
Is there a 'script,' if so, has anyone read it? How much of the film is really to be shot in Jersey and if some is what are the scenes because it now appears that filming will take anywhere other than in Jersey.
If there is a script is it based on a book? Who wrote it and who owns the rights, does the book actually exist?
If Jersey is seeking to diverse its economy, how would Jersey be able to expand into the film industry by working with the Production Team?
There is a sum of £167k for rights, what does this mean?
Who is Noel Castley-Wright?
What track record does Kevin Cavelle have?
Should monies given not have been in the name of the Film 'Knights of the Impossingworth'? Is this not good housekeeping so that the Production Company is able to show receipts in a tidy way.
Why were the cheques in the name of the Production Company? This means money could be spent on anything to do with any other projects.
We know that legal advice was sought but what advice was obtained from anyone involved in the film industry? What due diligence was really applied and who checked any replies received?
The only relevant information that made sense in the Hearing’s transcript was that Tesco would not come in with funding until the film was bonded, quite right! They do finance movies that is correct but only when the film is bonded and ready to shoot!
Of course Tesco runs its company in a business like manner and is answerable to its shareholders. If only our civil servants and Ministers took a take a leaf out of Tesco’s book, just think of the savings Jersey could make.
Unfortunately we do not do business like Tesco and what odds would any one give that heads will roll if the Knights of Impossingworth don’t exist or get off the ground?
Friday 6th September 2013.
Since I published the above Blog there has been continued readership, as such I thought it would be helpful to update readers.
Below are are number of websites which are self explanatory. What is evident is that it is questionable whether anyone will be taken to task for what the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) claimed to be a "catalogue of errors."
A 5 strong Treasury Team, led by a chief internal auditor will review the entire affair, however what will it find that the PAC did not? One questions why there should be another Review when it is clear that the Knights are by name but not by nature and if any horses ever existed, they have certainly bolted.
For further information please click onto the sites below.
States Employment Board Report