Chief exec’s in charge – if all agree
Wednesday 20th February 2013, 2:46PM GMT.
WITH characteristic bluntness and precision, the Housing minister told a Chamber of Commerce audience this week that weak political leadership is to blame for many of the States failings and that ministers are paid enough to get things right.
It was an arresting comment, especially from someone on the inside – but it is not the complete story.
As one contributor to the on-going States Review Committee on governance put it, ‘you tell me who’s in charge and I’ll tell you how well the machinery of government is functioning’.
For while the performance of individual ministers and their departments is important, it does not explain why government as a whole lacks a sense of direction or purpose.
A clue to that was provided last month by the chief minister who was asked to explain how conflict of interest between the chief executive and his chief officers might be resolved.
Anywhere else, the chief executive would be implementing the wishes of his principal stakeholders and his divisional heads would be actively supporting that or on gardening leave.
Here, in government, the disconnect between policy and implementation is so major that when the obvious question was asked – whether corporate or departmental directives were more important for chief officers – the chief minister was unable to give a direct answer.
That is not his fault, of course. The system is so unfocused that if a department clashes with the will of the States – as the previous Environment department did on introducing paid parking – it is the Assembly that has to resolve it.
If it gets that far.
Generally, these things are fudged which is why animal cruelty, referendums and civil partnerships just gather dust because departments know that if they don’t agree with a decision of the House, complying with it is largely voluntary.
And as the chief minister’s response also made clear, when it matters, the chief executive is really only in charge if everyone else agrees that he should be and takes the decisions for him.
So the Housing minister is right that many of the problems are leadership based – but the central issue is who is supposed to be providing it.
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