Public Accounts Committee identify issues with Government’s property management
The Public Accounts Committee has, today, published a report examining whether the Government’s management of its Public Estate property portfolio is providing taxpayers with value for money.
The Comptroller and Auditor General first recommended the development of a public estate strategy and implementation plan over three and half years ago. The Committee is now evaluating the Government’s progress delivering this work, along with other recommendations from their 2019 Report on Estate Management.
The report aims to ensure that the public gains maximum benefit from its portfolio of property assets held by the Government, which is worth over £1 billion. The Committee has also tried to understand the delay in producing a corporate asset management plan which should include a joined-up approach to how to dispose of, re-allocate or maintain these properties and, most importantly, evidence of a thorough consultation process with Islanders on the way forward.
Following extensive research, written submissions from members of the public and Government Officers, and public hearings with senior officials, Jersey Property Holdings and the Infrastructure, Housing and Environment (IHE) Department, the Public Accounts Committee has published their findings:
- Corporate responsibility: The Committee found it challenging to determine how and when property management decisions are made, and by whom. The Government should define the remit of key bodies - including the Regeneration Steering Group, the Corporate Asset Management Board (CAMB) and Jersey Property Holdings, as well as their relationship to each other. Their updated terms of reference should then be presented to the States Assembly.
- Best use of Government assets: Some prominent and culturally significant properties in the Public Estate have been lying empty for many years whilst arguments continue about their future use. Other buildings with limited financial or social value are maintained or repaired annually at huge cost, yet each deteriorating building owned on behalf of the public, represents a potential risk or liability and financial loss.
- Decision-making: The Estates Strategy does not outline an assessment of needs, or objective rationale to underpin decision-making.
- Reactive process: The Public Accounts Committee found that estate management remains an ad hoc, reactive process. Neither IHE or CAMB proactively approach departments; instead, Government departments with differing resources and understanding of the property management process must submit their property requirements without access to an objective process or clear guidance.
- Implementation: The Corporate Asset Management Plan – which is the means of implementing the Estates Strategy – has still not been published, seven months after the publication of the Strategy.
- Accessibility: The Public Accounts Committee found no evidence that the Government has made plans to ensure that all Government-owned properties comply with relevant disability legislation.
Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Deputy Inna Gardiner said: “From this review, we have to conclude that the Government is not managing its substantial property portfolio in an efficient way to maximise its effectiveness and value for money for the taxpayer.
“We call on the Government to urgently improve its governance processes and to clarify the roles of the different departments and bodies involved in property management. This will ensure that the Government is able to make objective evidence-based decisions which provide the public with well-managed, high-quality, accessible buildings.
“Every department should not need to have their own property experts to bid for property: the portfolio should be managed in an equitable and logical way, across Government. The rationalisation process should be robust and objective using industry recognised prioritisation tools and techniques and communicated to all stakeholders.
“The Government must act without further delay to restore and maintain public trust and confidence in its ability to manage the Public Estate. Accepting and fully implementing the recommendations from this report in a timely fashion will go a long way towards that aim.”