Connie Johnson, Legislative Office Team Leader/Clerk of Councils, Legislative Council of St Helena:
I had heard of Jersey before, but whilst I did not know where it was located I was excited to be able to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity provided to me by the CPA UK.
This was also my first long haul flight from St Helena. We left early that morning and touched down at Stansted, UK later that night. The flight to Jersey was quick and I settled in comfortably at the hotel and patiently awaited the arrival of Kara, the participant from Bermuda.
Anna Thorne, the Committee and Panel Officer from the States Greffe came by the hotel to collect me on Monday morning and walked with me to Morier House and then it was straight into all day meetings and hearings.
On reflection the first day was an eye opener for me because it was such a compact meeting day whereby the meetings all followed each other in sync with a main PAC meeting, a public hearing and final briefing. I found the public hearing interesting because the farmers raised concerns about the way they were impacted financially and personally by COVID-19and you could see and hear their frustrations but also their passion.
I later learnt that the PAC prefers to work this way whereby they work through as much business as possible on the scheduled meeting day. I was also surprised to learn that the lay members are voluntary and feel it is their civic duty to volunteer for various committees- unlike here on the Island where it is often difficult to engage members of the public even with the payment of a small retainer.
The rest of the programme meetings were arranged with various people, and they all gave me insight into their varying roles and always offered to give further support if any queries arose after my return to the Island. One of the highlights for me was attending the Sitting of the States Assembly. I was amazed by the magnificent priceless Mace they have and the beautiful States Chamber in which their meetings are held.
On the Island I hope to implement some of my learning in a variety of ways. For example, when our newly formed Scrutiny Committees are in operation I hope to contribute some of the skills I learnt observing the PAC in action in Jersey, where they have public hearings the same day as their normal PAC meeting so all PAC members commit to working a full day on a regular basis. I also aim to be paperless. The PAC on the Island also hopes in future to interact more with the public by seeking their feedback on various issues so I hope to draw on the session that I had with Anna on question preparation so that these are informative and useful to the recommendations the PAC might need to address. I will also make it a priority to become more involved with the PAC as now I have the experience and confidence to fill in for the PAC clerk at PAC meetings.
This clerk attachment was a continuation of the work of the UK Overseas Territories Project (UKOTP) supporting good governance and oversight of public finances in the UK Overseas Territories, delivered by CPA UK in partnership with the National Audit Office and Government Internal Audit Agency.