18 February 2021
Members of Legislative Council have agreed that a Consultative Poll on Governance Reform will be held on St Helena on Wednesday, 17 March 2021.
The Poll will ask the public if the current Governance System should be changed, and if so, whether it should be changed to a Revised Committee System or a Ministerial System.
Information on the three Governance Systems and Polling Day
Detailed information on the different Governance Systems, the voting process, and Polling Day, is available in an Information Booklet that can be found on the SHG Website via: https://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/government/public-information/. Hard copies of this booklet are scheduled to be published and distributed to key locations around the Island on Monday, 22 February, so look out for your copy.
Alongside the booklet, information has and will be distributed via local newspapers, radio announcements and discussions, Social Media posts, and a TV presentation.
Island-wide Public Information Sessions with members of Legislative Council have also been announced to take place next week. The schedule for these sessions can be found in this week’s newspapers as well as in the Information Booklet.
A Look at the Alternative Systems of Governance
Many will have seen the presentation on Local TV about the current Governance System for St Helena. Information on the current system is also available via the Information Booklet. Here, we take a look at the two alternative systems of Governance proposed in the Poll.
Revised Committee System
The Revised Committee System would be similar to the Current System of Governance. 12 Elected Members would be elected to Legislative Council following a General Election held every four years. The 12 Elected Members along with the Chief Secretary, Financial Secretary, Attorney General, Speaker of the House and Deputy Speaker would make up Legislative Council. The Chief Secretary, Financial Secretary and Attorney General, the ex-officio members, cannot vote in Legislative Council, nor can the Speaker or Deputy Speaker.
Legislative Council would elect five Elected Members to Executive Council (ExCo). The Governor chairs ExCo and the three ex-officio members of Legislative Council would remain non-voting members of ExCo.
In most matters, ExCo provides definitive advice to the Governor. As such, ExCo would remain the top decision-making body that sets the national strategy, the government’s legislative programme, approves policy of national importance, takes matters forward with the UK Government, as required, and is the final decider for many difficult Island decisions.
The Council Committee system would remain under a Revised Committee System of Governance, but the key difference would be in the make-up of the Council Committees and the role of the Committee Chairs.
In the Revised Committee System, the five Council Committees would comprise of one or two Elected Members, as opposed to five in the current system. The Chairs would have more direct responsibility for delivery of policy and financial management.
The five Elected Members of ExCo would still make up the Finance Committee that decides the allocation of financial resources.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) would remain in its separate function reporting to Legislative Council.
The Ministerial System would be a new model of governance for St Helena.
12 Elected Members would be elected to Legislative Council following a General Election held every four years. Legislative Council would comprise of the 12 Elected Members with the Speaker of the House, Deputy Speaker of the House, and the Attorney General as the non-voting members. The Chief Secretary and Financial Secretary would not form part of Legislative Council.
The 12 Elected Members of Legislative Council would elect a Chief Minister from among them, who would, in turn, select four Elected Members from Legislative Council to serve as Ministers. The Chief Minister and four Ministers would be appointed a ministry each and would set out their vision and policies for their four year term of office.
The Chief Minister and the four Ministers would form ExCo. ExCo would also comprise of the Attorney General, as a non-voting official, and be chaired by the Governor. The Chief Secretary or Financial Secretary could be invited to ExCo when needed but would not be members of ExCo.
The Chief Minister would have oversight of Ministers and could hold Cabinet meetings with Ministers to decide advice to be given to the Governor at meetings of ExCo.
Ministers would have direct responsibility and accountability for all policies and services delivered by their ministry. They would have to justify to Legislative Council the effective use of public funds spent in their ministry.
Ministers are expected to work from an office in their corresponding ministry. The Director and other staff would be required to develop a productive working relationship with the Minister and meet frequently to discuss policies and legislation being developed, and advise on the implementation of activities.
The remaining seven Elected Members, known as Legislators, would be allocated a constituency and would be the contact person for constituents in that area.
A large part of the Legislators’ remit would be to scrutinise the performance and decision making of the Ministers to ensure the effective use of public funds. A regular forum could be held where Legislators could question the Chief Minister and Ministers on their decisions and policies. Two scrutiny committees would be set up and the Legislators would be members of these committees.
Alongside the two new scrutiny committees, three of the Legislators would also sit on the PAC, which would continue to exist as in the current system.
Procedure for Implementation if a new Governance System is Chosen
The Ministerial System would require amendments to be made to the Constitution of St Helena. Amendments can only be made by a UK Order in Council. Orders in Council are made by the Queen acting on the advice of the Privy Council. The Privy Council can only consider any amendments after certain procedures have taken place; including approval of the amendments from the Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO). The FCDO have advised that if the Ministerial option is chosen they will do what they can to try and have the matter considered by the Privy Council before the dissolution of the current Legislative Council. However, there is no guarantee the Privy Council will consider it in time, particularly as they do not meet in August or September. It may therefore be the case that if there is to be a transition to a Ministerial System this takes place after the start of the next Legislative Council.
No changes to the Constitution are proposed for the Revised Committee System.
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18 February 2021