How do you lose a company that owes you £400,000?
With great difficulty, you would think. Of course, we know that debtors may try to run from their responsibilities but when the debt is so large, you'd be forgiven for keeping a close eye on the whereabouts of those who owe you money.
Sadly, that isn't the case for the government of Jersey. Having lent £400,000 from the Island's innovation fund to a company called Logfiller Ltd, those in charge of administering the loan and making sure it was being used appropriately, not only failed to ensure how the company was doing but failed to spot that the firm and all of its representatives had left the island. Thoughtlessly, they hadn't provided a forwarding address.
The Jersey Innovation Fund is tasked with providing loans and business support to entrepreneurs, start-ups and established organisations that want to bring new and innovative products or services to the market." Naturally, this mission is not without risk and Senator Phillip Ozouf, the Assistant Minister with responsibility for the fund was quite right when he recently pointed out that "there are going to be some businesses that are not going to succeed."
Indeed, it is quite possible that none of the businesses that have received a loan from the fund will succeed. However, the cause for concern lies in Senator Ozouf's assertion that "the ongoing review process of what’s happening with the company has continued and that continues to this day."
Really?! How do you review a company that has disappeared?
This wasn't a company that failed, this was a company that went AWOL. It's management ran away without leaving a forwarding address. To the best of our knowledge it has defaulted on its loan but this is OK, says Senator Ozouf, because the right processes have been followed.
Gallingly, the Senator also claims to take responsibility for the mess, that is whilst noticeably failing to resign and whilst failing to accept that mistakes were made. "I would have made the same decision, but some businesses will fail and others won’t," he told the States of Jersey.
Senator Ozouf clearly doesn't have a grasp of the situation. He seems to be confusing a failed business with a business that has disappeared, has run away and appears to be fleeing from its responsibilities to the island with the money that was entrusted to it.
As with so many companies attracted to the island, there was no shortage of press releases and fanfare announcing Logfiller's arrival and its being awarded a loan.
None of this will have played well with the many local business owners who had to swallow all this after their own applications to the Fund had failed.
That the largest single loan provided by the Fund should be made to a company that had no track record of any interest in Jersey, was salt being rubbed into their wounds.
Perfectly good Jersey-based businesses were overlooked in the Fund's, Digital Jersey's and Senator Ozouf's desperate desire to be seen to be bringing new investment to the island. Sadly, the result appears incredibly similar to the £200,000 that Jersey's current Treasury Minister, and then Economic Development Minister gave to the also disappeared, Canbedone Productions, and its fantasy fantasy film that never got made in Jersey.
It's hard not to believe that there are people out there who have seen Jersey coming. Who have looked at the desperate attempts by Jersey's government to operate on the world stage and realised that there's some easy money to be made because the States of Jersey wants to give cash to companies they know nothing about, rather than firms with strong ties to the island and which have too much to lose by running away.
The Fund may well have undertaken due diligence and assessed Logfiller Ltd before awarding the money nut all this tells us is that its processes and procedures are shoddy, ineffective and need to be overhauled.
The reality is that Jersey has become a soft target for cavalier 'businessmen' who may have decent intentions but clearly don't have the ability to deliver. With no resignation from Senator Ozouf or any member of the Innovation Fund board, it is clear that nobody is taking any responsibility, just as happened with Canbedone.
Islanders are left to foot the bill. Islanders are asked to pay more taxes and islanders are left to pick up the pieces of public-sector incompetence that constantly fails to learn from past mistakes.
Note: This article was changed at 16:00hrs on 16/6/2016 to remove any suggestion that Locate Jersey was involved with Logfiller's application to the Jersey Inovation Fund.