Commissioner for Standards investigation (FOI)
Commissioner for Standards investigation (FOI)Produced by the Freedom of Information office
Authored by Government of Jersey on behalf of the States Greffe and published on 14 October 2019.
Prepared internally, no external costs.
With reference to R.118/2019 - Commissioner for Standards: Investigation of Complaint of breach of the Code of Conduct for Elected Members by Deputy M. Tadier of St. Brelade, I would like to know –
The full cost of this investigation by the Commissioner of Standards?
What has been learnt from this operation and others, baring in mind that all Mr Paul Kernaghan's reports ever seem to do is give a very vague opinion of how he sees things conducted in Jersey from the UK, whilst regurgitating things we already know?
Finally I would like to know whether the pen pushing exercise by the outside Commissioner of Standards is of any additional benefit to the Taxpayer since this task was delegated from PPC 2 years ago?
The cost of the investigation was £250.
The request to know ‘what has been learnt from this operation’ has been taken as a request for information on the lessons learnt by the Privileges and Procedures Committee (PPC) from the investigation to which R.118/2019 referred.
The process to be followed by the Privileges and Procedures Committee (PPC) upon receipt of a report from the Commissioner for Standards is set out in Standing Order 158 of the States of Jersey (a copy of which has been included below). Under Standing Order 158(c), once PPC has reviewed the report and given the elected member who has been investigated an opportunity to address PPC, PPC “shall form an opinion, on the basis of the information before it, as to whether or not the elected member has breached the code of conduct and what action, if any, should be taken.” PPC may then report to the States Assembly its opinion and reasons and any action it thinks should be taken. It is in such a report that the ‘lessons learnt’ by PPC would be stated. In this instance, as stated in R.118/2019, the Committee accepted the Commissioner’s findings and concluded that no further action from PPC was required.
158 Outcome of investigation by the Commissioner for Standards
(1) When the Commissioner for Standards has reported the outcome of an investigation to the PPC under Article 9(1)(c) of the Commissioner for Standards (Jersey) Law 2017 in relation to the code of conduct for elected members of the States set out in Schedule 3, the PPC –
(a) shall review the Commissioner’s report;
(b) shall give the elected member whose act has been investigated the right to address the PPC, accompanied, if the elected member wishes, by a person of his or her choice;
(c) shall form an opinion, on the basis of the information before it, as to whether or not the elected member has breached the code of conduct and what action, if any, should be taken;
(d) shall inform the elected member of its opinion with reasons and what action, if any, it thinks should be taken; and
(e) may report its opinion and reasons, and any action it thinks should be taken, or which has been taken, to the States.
(2) When the Commissioner for Standards has reported the outcome of an investigation to the States under Article 9(1)(c) of the Commissioner for Standards (Jersey) Law 2017 in relation to the code of conduct and code of practice for Ministers and Assistant Ministers referred to in Article 18(3A) of the Law, the PPC shall –
(a) follow the procedure set out in sub-paragraphs (a) to (e) of paragraph (1) in relation to that report; or
(b) make the report of the Commissioner for Standards available to the States.
(3) The report by the PPC referred to in paragraph (1)(e) may be presented to the States in writing or made orally by the chairman of the PPC in a statement.
The advantages of establishing the office of Commissioner for Standards (and thereby amending the manner in which complaints about elected States Members are investigated) were set out in the report accompanying the Draft Commissioner for Standards (Jersey) Law, which was adopted by the States Assembly on 1st February 2017. This report is available at the following link:
Draft Commissioner for Standards (Jersey) Law
In particular, the report stated that:
“The Committee considers that one of the most significant problems with the current procedures for investigating alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct is that PPC is involved throughout the entire process. This means that the Committee must initially consider whether there are grounds to investigate a complaint and, if it thinks that there are, it must then investigate the matter itself and make adjudication at the end of the process. If a complaint is upheld, the Committee also needs to decide what sanction to recommend when making the adjudication.
It can, in practice, be difficult for PPC to deal with the different phases of an investigation separately. For example, in making an initial decision on whether there are grounds to accept a complaint and begin an investigation, it is almost impossible for the Committee not to stray into the actual investigation and adjudication stages, and this is clearly unsatisfactory. In addition, as indicated in the Consultation Document,1 political considerations can interfere in the Committee’s deliberations as it is clearly difficult, in practice, for any group of politicians to set aside all political allegiances and views when considering a complaint about a political colleague. There are often criticisms as a result that the process is unfair and not impartial.
PPC believes that the evidence from other jurisdictions, as summarised in the Consultation Document, shows that a post of independent Commissioner for Standards works extremely well in other parliaments. A Commissioner is able to undertake the initial investigation into a complaint in an entirely objective and impartial way. He or she can interview the various parties as required, can call for documents and other evidence, and can then make a recommendation on whether or not he or she considers that the Code has been breached. In some cases, an informal resolution of a complaint is possible if the Commissioner is able to agree with the member concerned that a complaint can be resolved by an apology or through some other action.
It is important to stress that the Commissioners in other jurisdictions do not make the final decision in relation to a complaint. In order to ensure that the important principle of internal self-regulation of parliaments is respected, the Commissioners simply report their findings and recommendations to the relevant parliamentary committee responsible for standards. This committee then makes the formal decision on the case and decides whether to recommend any sanction if a complaint is upheld. PPC was nevertheless reassured to note that it is almost unheard of in other jurisdictions for the committees to do anything other than ratify the Commissioner’s recommendations. Once the Commissioner has undertaken a thorough and objective investigation it would, in practice, be very difficult for a parliamentary committee to attempt to ‘second-guess’ the outcome of the Commissioner’s work. As a result the system provides, in practice, a robust independent system of investigation into complaints against elected members without affecting the important principle of internal self-regulation by elected members to avoid any interference in the process by the courts.”
This response has been issued on behalf of the States Greffe. The States Greffe is responsible for the information held by (and on behalf of) both itself and the States Assembly. Neither the States Assembly nor the States Greffe form part of the Government of Jersey and the Government was not involved either in the examination and retrieval of any information required for this response, nor in the drafting of the response itself