Deputy Peter Ferbrache leant on the impenetrable cloak of secrecy surrounding the CCA when fielding dozens of questions from the Assembly about the recent purchase of Condor’s new boat through a loan facilitated by Policy & Resources.
He leads both P&R and the Civil Contingencies Authority and was essentially a lightning rod for politician’s confusion over what kind of emergency Guernsey faced that led to a loan facility being extended to Condor of £26million.
A quick recap: Condor was originally planning to purchase a new ferry through a financial arrangement with the Guernsey Investment Fund. This fell through and subsequently the CCA were convened for an, as of yet, unknown emergency that could impact the island if the ferry wasn't bought immediately. P&R were then instructed to facilitate a loan of £26million out of the Guernsey Bond and also match £3million in funding that Condor were putting in.
A service level agreement has not yet been forthcoming following this transaction, despite the ‘Islander’ already having passed the halfway point of its one-way trip to the Channel Islands from New Zealand.
Pictured: The Condor Islander.
Earlier this week it was reported that Condor was not only unaware of the exact nature of the emergency but said - via its CEO John Napton - it could’ve sourced alternative funding for the ferry. The ferry company has since sought to add context to its stance, indicating that while it could've sourced that additional funding, it couldn't in the short timeframe required to secure the vessel.
Despite this recent clarification, the original story triggered an urgent question in the States Assembly today by Deputy Gavin St Pier, who asked, if Condor had indeed been ready, willing and able to complete the purchase of the Condor Islander with bank finance, what were the reasons for the States of Guernsey providing £26million in loan finance and £3million for a 15% equity stake in the vessel.
"What I can say at the outset is this... neither the Policy & Resources Committee nor the Civil Contingencies Authority are responsible for any comments a representative of Condor may give to the media,” said Deputy Ferbrache.
“Condor were not ready, willing or able to finance the purchase of the vessel within the very strict time constraints that existed at the time. I understand that now, belatedly, a statement has been put out by Condor seeking to correct the confusion which arose solely from their comments made earlier this week.”
A torrent of supplementary questions then followed from Deputy St Pier and other members of the Assembly.
Deputy Lyndon Trott asked when P&R would bring a report to the Assembly on the matter, similar to when a report was published in 2012 after the then Emergency Powers Authority instructed the then Policy Council to buy two fuel tankers.
Deputy Ferbrache said the CCA will continue to take advice from the law officers and if the Authority is told that more can be revealed to the public and the Assembly without breaching their duties under the CCA law, they will do so.
Deputy Aidan Matthews asked if Deputy Ferbrache understood the public's frustration with the secrecy surrounding the purchase of the boat.
“The Civil Contingencies law was enacted to give confidentiality in relation to certain matters,” reiterated Deputy Ferbrache.
“All I can say is that every government should be as transparent as possible, every State's decision should be as transparent as possible, but there's good reason under the 2012 law for certain things not to be transparent. I can't say any more than that, and I don't believe we [the CCA] have any discretion in this matter to release information.”
Deputy Peter Roffey pushed on the financial information that should be available to the public, for example, the terms of the loan made to Condor for the purchase.
“If P&R could publish information which is not commercially sensitive and which does not breach the terms of the Civil Contingencies law, it will do so,” said Deputy Ferbrache.
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