Gina Davidson: The importance of being honest

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TO paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to lose one director may be regarded as misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.

Furthermore, to lose senior staff when internal investigations are ongoing, when former employees are being sentenced in court for corruption, internal whistleblowers are still waiting for tribunal cases to be dealt with, and your chief executive is about to retire and be replaced, makes Edinburgh City Council seem like an organisation that’s said to hell with careless, let’s go for full-on reckless.

This, though, is perhaps what happens when a body, such as the council, is finding its past well and truly catching up with it as it tries to transform itself into a leaner, more modern organisation.

For too long there have been sections within the council which have run as if they were their own little fiefdoms. It used to be housing that was the big problem – when officers carried council house keys around and handed them out like alms to the poor, when and if they felt like it. Much more recently it’s been property services, with bungs and lapdances being used to ensure certain contracts went to certain firms, no questions asked, you ain’t seen me, right?

Shall we throw in the apparent incompetence, if not corruption, in the legal department which led to contractual blunders in the tram project on the one hand and the city losing the ancient Parliament House on the other?

Even funerals at the council’s crematorium were being done the way staff wanted – wrongly – and blind eyes were turned. And now it appears there has been an incapacity among staff in the education department to investigate when their colleagues – and perhaps friends – are accused of wrongdoing. Who knows what else will come out of that particular bag of dirty laundry, although it would seem that director Gillian Tee is above reproach in how she handled the allegations of sexual impropriety against Castlebrae high’s former headteacher.

Without a doubt Edinburgh council is creaking both financially and physically when it comes to staff. It is a large organisation with decades-old problems – some of conspiracy, others of cock-up – and an apparent real lack of performance management structures for its top-level staff, some of whom have no doubt landed in senior roles through dint of time served rather than qualification.

The council is, of course, being asked to do more and more with fewer and fewer resources. The strain on people is no doubt enormous – director of health and social care Peter Gabbitas must have been feeling it as he’s now “on annual leave” after vastly ambitious plans to integrate health and care services ran millions over budget. He is likely to be offered a pay-off to quit.

Certainly, former services for communities director Mark Turley looked ill when he resigned his position last year after a series of major scandals hit his ridiculously large department.

And who knows how long finance chief Alastair Maclean will remain after not getting the top job? His nose may be well out of joint after Cornwall Council chief executive Andrew Kerr was appointed. And indeed, Maclean’s own area – he’s director of corporate governance – must be under some scrutiny as well, given the council’s Corporate Programme Office must be failing to live up to its tasks of overseeing all major council projects as well as the transformation of the council and its services.

The whole place certainly feels like it’s going through a transformation, and right now not one best-suited to meeting the needs of Edinburgh citizens. Here’s hoping it’s just a phase and the new chief executive is able to appoint the right people in the right places to ensure that the people of Edinburgh get the of local governance they need.

Get on board and break glass

“IF you are good enough, if you work hard enough, no glass ceiling should hold you back.” Fine words from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon when she launched her government’s campaign to encourage gender equality across public sector boards.

I couldn’t agree more. But one of the big issues is getting women to put themselves forward for such positions. After all, if you’re told for long enough that you don’t have the skills or ability to reach the top it’s hard to believe otherwise.

Which is why events like the one organised by VisitScotland and Changing the Chemistry on June 29 at the Festival Theatre are very important. The workshop will allow a diverse range of people – many of whom have never sat on a board before – to hear what it’s all about and discover what support is available. While for others who do have some experience as a non-executive director, it could help them improve their efficiency in the role.

VisitScotland itself is looking for new board members. One of them could be you.

Surgical strike needed now

IT would appear that the ego – or egos – have well and truly landed at the Royal Infirmary. It’s unsurprising that some doctors develop a god complex given their ability to save lives, but when it develops into a chest-thumping, teeth-baring, old fashioned oneupmanship which could put lives at risk, then things have gone way too far.

The leaked report on the inner workings of the vascular unit shows a hugely dysfunctional set-up which needs operating on immediately before patient care is severely compromised.

I’ll drink to all the dads

FROM Sean Connery as Professor Henry Jones in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade to Gary Lewis in Billy Elliot and Gregor Fisher’s Rab C Nesbitt, Scottish dads on screen run from the sublime to the ridiculous. They were all big softies at heart, though.

So here’s to the dads and their bad jokes, embarrassing dancing, deep pockets and endless wisdom this Sunday – and every day.