LibVan’s questions over Sefton loans affair

Kate Beecroft MHK

Kate Beecroft MHK

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The Liberal Vannin Party has outlined a number of questions it believes are still to be answered over the Sefton loans affair.

The party hit out after Chief Minister Allan Bell told a radio station: ‘Mr Shimmin was unfairly hounded over the issue, with constant questioning in the House of Keys and Tynwald about the deal.’

Kate Beecroft MHK, LibVan leader, said that as far as her party was concerned, the matter was never simply about Mr Shimmin.

‘It was always about establishing whether or not legislation and regulations had been abided by,’ she said.

‘It was always about good governance.

‘Processes and procedures are designed to put the checks and balances in place so that public money is protected as far as possible.

‘These clearly failed in this instance and we need to find out why so that it can be changed to ensure that there is a more robust system in future.’

The questions it wants answers to are:

Regarding the 2012 loan:

Was legal advice sought?

Did any officer raise concerns about the vires?

Who authorised the loan?

Did it have Treasury concurrence?

Was it agreed by the Council of Ministers?

Regarding the 2013 loan:

Did any officer raise concerns about the vires?

We know that this loan did not have Treasury concurrence but did Treasury raise concerns about the vires?

The Chief Minister defended the decision to help the Sefton Group with the rationale being that of protecting jobs and the economy.

Despite this, Mark Wilson, managing director of rival Sleepwell Hotels Group, was highly critical of the move and said it could have gone in to rescue the Sefton, without recourse to a taxpayer guarantee.

A press statement from Liberal Vannin said: ‘Sefton Group’s bankers were not prepared to assist further and Liberal Vannin believes that the government should not act as a bank of last resort.

‘In addition, the majority shareholders of the Sefton Group are extremely wealthy individuals and if they were not prepared to bail out their own failing company then government had no right to do so.

‘These arguments, and more, were debated and lost last year but we now find that, apart from it being unlawful, this has happened before.

‘Last Tuesday (June 17) Mr Shimmin told Tynwald: “We had done this type of activity previously, and therefore the officers quite rightly felt that we had the legal vires”.’

The statement continues: ‘Despite calling for Mr Shimmin’s resignation, LibVan has a certain sympathy with ministers who take financial proposals to the Council of Ministers.

‘It is understandable that ministers take comfort from the fact that Treasury have checked things first.

‘Government’s own chief financial adviser, Malcom Couch, has stated that not all chief executives understand all of the financial regulations and Minister [Chris] Robertshaw is due to report back to Tynwald on this very matter.

‘But surely Treasury must be fully conversant with financial regulations as the chief executive of that department is Malcolm Couch.

‘If he does not have a comprehensive understanding of every piece of legislation and regulation what is the point of having Treasury check these things?

‘Or when Treasury have checked them, and the Minister has given his concurrence, is he equally responsible for any failure?’

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