Political Governance on St Helena – Professor Sarkin’s Second Report

Professor Sarkin has completed his latest report. He has gathered and considered views from many people and organisations across St Helena about the way the Island is politically governed. In both his first report in December 2019 and his second one, now available, he compared the accountability and timeliness in decision-making in the current Council Committee system with alternative options. The most prominent alternative option suggested in his report is the potential offered by a Ministerial-style of governance. A political system widely operated in other Overseas Territories and sovereign countries across the world.

Traditions, social expectations and responsiveness expected from political representatives were all considered in the report from Professor Sarkin. In his second report a series of observations and suggestions are presented, including:

  • ‘Clear support’ across the community for a change away from the Committee-based governance system
  • The popular opinion being that a change would improve the prospect of clearer responsibility, better transparency and greater accountability for decisions taken within the political system
  • ‘Suggests that to address popular opinion the best way forward’ is to adopt a Ministerial system of governance
  • Other governance options including reforms of the present Committee system were considered possible but discounted as less effective in meeting expectations of accountability and responsibility
  • ‘Concern’ from some in the community as to whether any new system of governance would be workable on St Helena
  • If a Ministerial system was chosen:
    • A LegCo of 11 elected representatives was recommended, from which a Chief Minister would be chosen, who in turn selects four Ministers from the other elected representatives
    • SHG would be renamed to, for example, the St Helena Public Service and restructured into five ‘Directorates’ (Ministries) to work directly for the five ministers.
    • The six non-ministerial LegCo elected representatives would form five new ‘scrutiny committees’, one to hold each ministry to account. The role and powers of the Public Accounts Committee could be strengthened too. Co-opting non-elected participants to these committees to increase capabilities could be considered
    • The six non-ministerial LegCo elected representatives (or all 11) could become dedicated constituency representatives for new post-election representational districts dividing up the whole Island
    • ‘Suggestions’ are given on how to set up and operate a Ministerial system
  • Maintain an all-Island electoral system to elected LegCo representatives
  • Various views are collated on other aspects of governance arrangements such as establishing a Complaints/Public Service Commission, voter registration and some powers exercised by the UK
  • Suggests a referendum to agree any changes to the Constitution may not be needed if St Helena agrees another way to express ‘popular will’ for a Constitutional amendment to implement governance changes.

The Governor’s Office is pleased to forward the report to SHG, ExCo and LegCo elected representatives and the general public. The full text of Professor Sarkin’s second report will also be available on the SHG website.

The Governor’s Office will shortly be inviting people from the St Helena community, independent of the SHG Public Service and Councillors, to join a short-term (part-time for 4-6 weeks) Governance Commission. Its function will be to examine if the suggested governance changes are realistic for St Helena; frame the question to be put to the public if a referendum or other consultation process is decided; and advise on the appropriateness of other suggestions made in Professor Sarkin’s report. It is hoped the Governance Commission will complete their work and pass their recommendations on the way forward to ExCo and LegCo for debate and decision as early as May 2020. The Terms of Reference of the Governance Commission will be published shortly.

Governor’s Office, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

10 March 2020

St Helena Government Press Office

Telephone: 22470
Email: liam.yon@sainthelena.gov.sh