ST HELENA TO ACQUIRE A CHIEF MINISTER
Submitted by J Brock (FINN)
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 continue to provide regular information articles on how a Ministerial Government will work.
This week’s focus is on the role of the Chief Minister.
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.
Who is responsible for selecting a Chief Minister?
Following the General Election, the 12 candidates elected will form the Legislative Council. At the first meeting of the Legislative Council held after the General Election, the 12 Elected Members will, by secret ballot, elect a Chief Minister from among them, and the Governor must then officially appoint the person so elected as Chief Minister.
How are the Ministers appointed?
The first job for the Chief Minister is to select four Elected Members of Legislative Council, who have consented to their nomination, to serve as Ministers. The Governor then officially appoints the Ministers to their respective portfolios. The Governor must follow the recommendation of the Chief Minister on these appointments
The Chief Minister can recommend to the Governor the revocation of an appointment of a Minister. The Governor has to then revoke the appointment.
The Chief Minister and Ministers will together set out publicly their vision and main policies for their four-year term of office. It is expected this Vision Statement (or some may call it a Manifesto Statement) would be prepared during the first month they are in office.
What departments and function of Government will the Chief Minister be responsible for?
The Chief Minister will recommend to the Governor the allocation among the Ministers (including the Chief Minister if he or she so desires) of the finance portfolio and other portfolios giving responsibility for departments (directorates) or functions of government. The Chief Minister will have responsibility for any departments (directorates) or functions of government in respect of which no allocation of a portfolio has been made. This process excludes any departments or functions of government which under the Constitution or other law are the responsibilities of other persons. This would for example exclude most of the Governor’s special responsibilities under the Constitution.
A Minister who has the responsibility for a directorate of government exercises general direction and policy control over that directorate, in accordance with the policies of the Government as determined by the Executive Council.
Along with the Ministers, the Chief Minister will have direct political responsibility and accountability for all policies and services delivered by directorates in their portfolio. This includes direct financial responsibility and accountability for all policies and services delivered. They will also be expected to explain to Legislative Council the effective use of public funds spent in their portfolio directorate.
Who will report to the Chief Minister?
The four Ministers will report to the Chief Minister who will have oversight of their performance. Neither the Chief Minister nor Ministers will manage any public servants as this is the role of the Portfolio Director and their senior officials within Government.
Will the Chief Minister be responsible for the operational activity of their Portfolio?
No. The operational delivery of policies and public services are the responsibility of public officials. The Chief Minister and Ministers have political responsibility not line management responsibility of officials. This is to ensure that an impartial public service, free from political influence, is maintained as required by the Constitution.
Can a Chief Minister dismiss a Public Service Director?
No, Portfolio Directors report to the Chief Secretary who has the responsibility for the performance of all public officials.
What relationship will the Chief Minister have with Public Service Directors?
Unless the Chief Minister is allocated their department, he or she will not have a direct relationship with a Director. The Minister with the allocated department will exercise general direction and policy control over the department and will work closely with the Director and Senior Management team. The Director will, in turn, act as chief policy adviser to that Minister on matters within the directorate’s responsibility.
Can a Chief Minister be dismissed?
The only way that a Chief Minister can be removed from his office (outside his or her own decision is):
- If a motion of no confidence in the Chief Minister is carried in Legislative Council
- If a motion of confidence in the Chief Minister is lost in Legislative Council.
The Chief Minister could also choose to step down from their position for a variety of reasons by tendering their resignation to the Governor.
Where will the Chief Minister be based?
The Chief Minister will be based at the Castle but will also work at the Public Service Directorate of their respective portfolio (if any).
How will a Chief Minister be held accountable for their decisions?
The Chief Minister will ultimately be accountable to Legislative Council who are able to remove him or her through a motion of no confidence.
The Chief Minister will also be held accountable through a number of mechanisms including:
- Scrutiny Committees set up under the Constitution.
- Keeping the Governor informed of activities of Government as required under the Constitution
- The expected introduction of Chief Minister’s Question Time
- Questions in Legislative Council including those on behalf of constituents
- Debates in Legislative Council
- A Ministerial Code of Conduct.
Will a Chief Minister chair Executive Council Meetings?
No. Executive Council meetings will continue to be chaired by the Governor.
The Chief Minister is able to meet with his Ministers when he chooses. The Constitution expressly states that he can do so in order to decide what advice to tender to the Governor at a meeting of the Executive Council.
Thank you to those who submitted questions last week and which have been included in this issue. In our next issue we will look at the role of Ministers. Please send in any questions you may have by 12noon on Monday, 30 August 2021, via the contact details above.