St Helena : FURTHER CHANGES TO STRUCTURE OF ST HELENA GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
Submitted by Saint Helena Herald (Public Relations Information Office) 16.09.2010 (Article Archived on 30.09.2010)
As part of the ongoing process of public sector modernisation, the St Helena Government (SHG) has been looking proactively at its current administrative structure.
FURTHER CHANGES TO STRUCTURE OF ST HELENA GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
As part of the ongoing process of public sector modernisation, the St Helena Government (SHG) has been looking proactively at its current administrative structure. The objective is to bring that structure more into line with good international practice in a way that is suited to the needs of the Island, including the possibility of air access.
Some changes have already taken effect. These include the reform of the Finance Department which will enable the introduction of modern budgetary policies, as well as accrual accounting. Another important change has been the setting up of the Strategic Policy and Planning Unit, which not only coordinates the process of modernisation across the whole of the public sector but also provides central policy guidance on economic and social issues, as well as strategic planning and performance management. Yet another change has been the recruitment of a Tourism Development Executive, working on Island, and a Sales and Marketing Executive, operating from London, who will between them complement the work of the local Tourism Office.
The possibility of more radical and strategic changes, including further outsourcing and the hiving off of certain Government activities, requires more in depth discussion with elected Councillors, said the Acting Governor Mr Andrew Wells yesterday. In the meantime a number of additional administrative changes are being implemented in order to facilitate the putting together of next year’s budget and strategic plans for SHG.
Speaking about these changes, the Acting Chief Secretary, Mrs Gillian Francis, said that they would include the recruitment of a new post of Director of Infrastructure and Utilities to coordinate this core section of Government activity; the creation under the Financial Secretary of a new unit responsible for corporate procurement; the separation of the Attorney General’s Chambers from the rest of the administration; the expansion of the department dealing with Natural Resources so as to bring together the related subjects of planning, housing, lands, building and the environment under the same management; and the taking forward of the proposed “one stop shop” to make SHG’s daily contacts with the public more efficient and user friendly. The Acting Chief Secretary emphasised that these changes were part of an ongoing and evolutionary process and would not in themselves require significant additional resources.
Office of the Chief Secretary
The last routine ExCo meeting was cancelled, as elected Members and officers alike are working extremely hard at present on a wide range of issues, some but not all concerned with the prospective airport development, and at the same time rightly require sufficient time to study papers thoroughly before reaching informed decisions.
As a result, yesterday’s ExCo was quite lengthy, and we are likely to require an additional meeting next week.
An important decision was taken to endorse the design and associated report prepared by Nicholas O’Dwyer and Consulmar (our consulting and design engineers for this component of the Wharf Improvement Programme) as a fully developed option to achieve safer landing at James Town Wharf. Although there has been extensive consultation on this project, understandable queries were raised about what this decision would mean in practice. Would the public be given a full opportunity to comment on the design at the planning application stage? Would the concerned Council Committee (Access and Transport) be given sufficient time to consider the key terms of letters inviting expressions of interest? Would a proper Environmental Impact Assessment be conducted? The answer in each case was “yes”, and Council therefore unanimously endorsed the decision to proceed. One very positive effect of this decision will be that we have met the associated EU requirement for the final disbursal of funds under the EDF 9 funding agreement.
A second issue on the substantive agenda was a potential problem relating to the tax position of overseas based employees currently on Island. Council accepted the view of the Financial Secretary that the potential tax liability had not been clear to either SHG or the parties concerned at the time of the relevant contract negotiations. It was therefore decided to provide an Extra Statutory Concession in the present case on an exceptional basis. It remains the case of course that all persons of whatever status working on St Helena must pay tax in accordance with due process.
A paper was also presented by the Acting Chief Secretary concerning the application for dispensation to apply for St Helenian status. I noted that there was in fact a real connection between these two, apparently very different issues. In the more open economic and strategic framework which we are working to put in place as a condition of air access, it would not in my view be necessary for such individual, administrative issues to be decided at the level of the Island’s highest policy making body.
As usual, there were also a goodly number of items arising from discussions at previous meetings or raised under Any Other Business. Concerning the increase in wharfage rates agreed at the last meeting for goods not being cleared from the Wharf in good time, the Financial Secretary agreed that these would not come into effect until 1st October to provide a grace period for affected traders. The issue of water quality remains an important issue. There was consensus that the provision of clean water, whether treated or not, should be a priority throughout the Island. Members were supportive of my suggestion that concerned senior officials from public works and environmental health should be invited to an informal meeting of the Legislative Council to take this forward in the near future.
Good progress was again noted on the preparation of the MOU required by the Secretary of State as a condition of air access. The Strategic Policy Coordinator and I will attend at this Friday’s informal LegCo for a general stocktaking of where we have got to so far.
I was informed that elected Members were very supportive of sending a representative to the Overseas Territories Consultative Conference in November. This is clearly a good moment for the Island to make its voice heard directly in London. In the same vein, Members noted that Governor Gurr would be holding high level discussions with key parties in UK over the coming weeks, and wished him well in his endeavours.
Finally, I have heard on a number of occasions that members of the public are interested in asking further questions about matters raised in these broadcasts. Some matters are of course confidential, whilst others may be referred to the Chairman of the relevant Council Committee. Otherwise, I would encourage concerned individuals to call our Public Information section in the Castle directly, where Mr. Garron Yon and his staff always stand ready to help.
The meeting concluded at 1.20 pm.
Andrew R Wells