Virtual Post-Election Seminar Delivered for the St Helena Legislative Council

Published 04 February 2022

From 1-3 February 2022 upon the invitation of the St Helena Legislative Council, CPA UK organised a virtual Post-Election Seminar for parliamentarians and parliamentary officials.

The Seminar followed St Helena's October 2021 General Election, which was assessed for the first time by international experts in an observation mission run by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association British Islands and Mediterranean Region. 30 participants attended including all 14 members of the Legislative Council, and all three members of the Legislative Council Team. Both lay PAC members attended on the relevant day, while other participants including the acting Governor and senior civil servants.

The Seminar explored the role and responsibilities of parliamentarians and the various scrutiny tools at their disposal, and particularly engaged with recent constitutional changes in St Helena including the transition to the ministerial system and the introduction of select committees. During the course of the Seminar, 22 speakers from across the UK and the Overseas Territories shared knowledge and exchanged ideas with participants from the Legislative Council.

Each day of the Seminar focused on a specific theme: good governance; life as a parliamentarian; and the committee system.

Day One: Good Governance

The first day of the Seminar opened with speeches from CPA UK's Head of International Programmes Victoria Bower and the Speaker of the St Helena Legislative Council the Hon. Cyril Gunnell MLC. This was followed by discussion between the participants of the opportunities and challenges facing St Helena in relation to its new constitutional system.

The first main session focused on the functions of the branches of government. This was followed by a discussion of how parliamentarians and parliamentary staff contribute to an effective Legislative Council and how to create an effective working relationship to ensure parliamentarians are best supported in their role. Speakers then presented on best practice for legislative and policy scrutiny with a focus on processes within the Chamber. Finally, two OT parliamentarians in a roundtable discussion shared and exchanged knowledge with members of the Legislative Council on how the ministerial system operated the obligations and responsibilities of Ministers in relation to the Legislative Council, including in the context of collective responsibility.

Day Two: Life as a Parliamentarian

The second day of the Seminar focused on life as a parliamentarian and opened with a roundtable discussion on the opportunities and challenges for new and returning parliamentarians. This was followed by sessions on diversity and inclusion and standards in public life and focused on how to create "to create an inclusive working environment which worked for everyone".

Further sessions explored the financial and human resources and services required to facilitate and support parliamentarians to engage in effective parliamentary action, and the role of consensus building between parliamentarians across the chamber. A further session on outreach and engagement with the public was unfortunately cancelled due to a power outage in St Helena.

Day Three: The Committee System

The final day of the Seminar focused upon the committee system. Following a constitutional amendment passed in 2021 the Legislative Council has been given permission to establish two select committees (in addition to the existing constitutionally distinct Public Accounts Committee). 

The day started with discussion of the unique role and function of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Then speakers presented on select committees, explaining how they can facilitate the effective scrutiny of government and outlining the various powers and roles they can perform. This was followed by a roundtable discussion in which participants examined the similarities and differences between PACs and select committees and explore how the committee system would change the manner in which St Helena's PAC functioned. In the final session speakers presented on how select committee members can engage with the public and how to effectively leverage committee reports to encourage an executive response.

Outcomes, Pledges, and Commitments:

Based upon self-ratings before and after the Seminar, participants recorded an average change in understanding with a 30% increase. “The Role and Remit of Select Committees” saw the biggest change in knowledge with a 44 % increase, followed by “The Ministerial System and relations with the Legislative Council” with a 35% increase.

At the end of the Seminar participants from the Legislative Council were invited to make pledges and commitments.

To be delivered within the next six months/August 2022):

  • To have completed the establishment of the select committees and have them positively contributing to St Helena’s new system
  • For the Government to have finalised their vision statement and legislative roadmap for the next four years
  • To have completed the process of making the Legislative Council chamber accessible.

To be delivered by the end of the parliamentary term:

  • Host a CPA BIMR Conference
  • Address the legislation backlog.

The St Helena Post-Election Seminar 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.