Chamber Response to PAC eGove Report

Wednesday 13 September 11:23

The Jersey Chamber of Commerce responds to the Public Accounts Committee report on eGov.

Dear Public Accounts Committee,

Having read your PAC report on eGov and had time to discuss the issues raised with our Digital Committee, the Chamber of Commerce, as the largest independent business representative organisation, felt it was important to write to you regarding our concerns for the eGov project.

Any large-scale programme of work requires two key things:

  • A strategy that sets out what outcomes the programme is intending to achieve, with reference to how success will be measured, expected costs and how they will be spent, required resources and communication strategies
  • Executive sponsorship and strong leadership from the most senior parts of the organisation

The PAC report makes reference to the programme’s inability to produce a single clear strategy for eGov. It must be said, this particular point is extremely worrying as an overriding comprehensive strategy should be the key document a programme of this scale is measured against. Without a document such as this, how can those people directly working on the project, the States, government or islanders be aware of what is planned, budgeted for and due to be delivered?

£7.9m is a lot of money, but large-scale change programmes can be expensive as they tend to require resource to change behaviour, process and technological aspects of an organisation.

It is not clear what the eGov programme has produced for the budget that has so far been spent. There is reference to 24 projects on the gov.je/eGov website, with 14 projects “live” and a further 10 in initiation or development. It must be said that some of the 14 delivered projects are good and of benefit to the island but it is difficult to adequately equate what has been achieved and what is in-progress, in terms of budget spends.

There is clearly a lot of work going in to develop the foundations and underpinnings of the programme, but this is opaque from outside of the project itself and Chamber cannot be comfortable that the work going on is sufficient to support the size and scale of the programme.

In the same way that a Chief Financial Officer would expect a comprehensive business plan ahead of signing-off on large scale investment, we too would expect the States to be able to set out their business plan/building blocks for a programme of this magnitude. Clearly outlining exactly what is to be achieved, with continuous communication on what is planned, achieved and in the pipeline.

The minute spending detail of all tax payers money is not always visible or necessary to be so, in terms of every single project or programme. However, the outcomes, positive impact and value of a programme of this scale should and must be comprehensively communicated in order for islanders to make a judgement. With little understanding of deliverables, assessment is impossible.

In the case of eGov, 80% of the budget has already been spent, with little understanding (outside of the eGov Executive) on how that money has been used or whether it represents value for money. In conjunction with a need for additional funds, the Jersey Chamber of Commerce would suggest some serious questions must be asked of senior government officials and politicians, such as:

  • How can the States of Jersey / the Treasury, sign off on an £11m+ project, with no comprehensive strategy, framework or final deliverables in place?
  • Who is ultimately responsible for making this decision?
  • If additional funding is approved, what will the decision to grant this funding be based on and how will that differ from the initial project funding signed off in 2014?

The journey for Jersey to be a credible player on the world digital stage will not happen by osmosis. It will take much work from both the public and private sectors to make it a reality. However, there can be no doubt the outcomes of the PAC report damage Jerseys credibility in terms of being a digital jurisdiction. Moreover, Digital Jersey’s work of seeking out and encouraging digital companies and experts to relocate here becomes ever more challenging when our government will undoubtedly be used as an indicator of how technically advanced a jurisdiction Jersey is.

Projects on this scale take time and money and must be driven by a clear strategy, measurable outcomes and clear lines of accountability. When many other jurisdictions, countries and cities are looking to stamp their existence on the digital commerce map of desirable business bases, senior States officials and government must prioritise this piece of work. Especially in light of your PAC report.

In conclusion, we would advise that an immediate review is necessary, a comprehensive strategy is urgently needed, and adequate funding and sufficient corporate governance must be actioned in order to ensure the eGov programme has the best chance of success and importantly to ensure that Jersey’s reputation as a digital, forward think jurisdiction is not damaged.

Yours Sincerely,

Digital Committee.

Jersey Chamber of Commerce.

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