18 August 2021
Preparations are underway for a General Election to take place on St Helena before the end of October. This year’s Election will be historic – the first under a ministerial system of Government.
Leading up to the General Election we will provide regular information articles on how a Ministerial Government will work.
This week’s focus is on what the Ministerial System is and how it is different from the current system of Governance. In future issues we will look at the roles of the Chief Minister, Ministers & Portfolio Directorates, Executive Council, Legislative Council, the SHG Administration (Public Service), the Public Accounts Committee, and the role of the Governor.
If you have any questions you would like to have answered in any of these articles please send them to the SHG Press Office via: Kerisha.Yon@sainthelena.gov.sh or on tel: 22368.
The Ministerial System
The Ministerial System is a new system of governance for St Helena.
However it is still the case that 12 members of the public must be elected to form the Legislative Council (LegCo). This will be done at this year’s General Election and only those people who have put their names on the Register of Electors will be able to cast a vote.
As is now, all 12 Elected Members of LegCo will be voting members. The Attorney General will also be a Member of LegCo but ex-officio and non-voting. There will also continue to be a Speaker and Deputy Speaker for LegCo. The Chief Secretary and Financial Secretary are currently non-voting Members of LegCo but will no longer be Members under the new system.
Chief Minister and Ministers
Under the new Ministerial System, LegCo will seek expressions of interest and elect a Chief Minister from amongst their number. The Chief Minister will then select four Elected Members from LegCo to serve as Ministers and recommend to the Governor their appointment and the allocation among the Ministers of the Finance portfolio and such other portfolios necessary to give each Minister responsibility for the different departments or functions of government. The Governor must follow the recommendation of the Chief Minister on these appointments. The Chief Minister will also be responsible for any unallocated portfolios.
The Chief Minister and Ministers will together set out their vision and policies for their four-year term of office. It is expected this would be prepared during the first month they are in office.
Ministers will have direct political responsibility and political accountability for all policies and services delivered by their portfolio. They will also have to explain to Legislative Council the effective use of public funds spent in their portfolio.
The Chief Minister and four Ministers, together with the Governor and Attorney General will form the Executive Council (ExCo) – the highest decision making body within St Helena Government. The Attorney General will continue to be an ex-officio non-voting member of ExCo. Formal ExCo meetings will continue to be chaired by the Governor as a neutral Chair. The Chief Secretary and Financial Secretary will no longer be members of ExCo but are likely to be invited to ExCo whenever necessary.
The remaining seven Elected Members will each be allocated after the General Election a geographical area to represent in LegCo (i.e. a ‘constituency’) and the individual Elected Member will be the first point of call for constituents in that area. The Elected Member will represent their constituents in LegCo and in their dealings with Ministers. The geographical areas would be based on the present voting district boundaries.
The role of the Legislative Council will remain the same under the new system but there will no longer be any Council Committees.
Changes from Current System
Ministers are expected to work from an office at the Public Service directorate of their respective portfolio. Portfolio Directors and their Senior Management team should develop a productive working relationship with their Minister and advise him or her on policies, services and legislation being developed. A Minister does not line manage any public servants within their portfolio, that is the role of the Portfolio Director and their senior officials.
It is intended that a regular forum will be held where Legislative Council will be able to question the Chief Minister and Ministers on their decision making. To do this there are two new innovations:
- The creation of Scrutiny Committees that will ask about and question issues in each portfolio; and
- Chief Minister and Ministers’ Question Time where they will be asked questions each week by Elected Members in an open meeting under the direction of the Speaker.
In our next issue we will look at the role of the Chief Minister. Please send in any questions you may have by 12noon on Monday, 23 August 2021, via the contact details above.
18 August 2021