Basseterre, St. Kitts, February 16, 2017 (SKNIS): The senior leadership of the Government of National Unity reiterated its commitment to the Good Governance Agenda on Wednesday (February 15) but said legislation governing such will take some time as there are a number of demands that must be fulfilled to produce a comprehensive law.
On the latest edition of the radio and television programme “Working for You”, Prime Minister, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, spoke about the promise to deliver legislation on Term Limits for the post of the Prime Minister and also Integrity in Public Life. He said the matters are being addressed in an ongoing manner.
“Integrity in Public Life in a sense cannot be legislated – you either have integrity or you don’t. However, we understand that there are certain mechanisms, including legislative mechanisms that could make more powerful the consequences for persons displaying this lack of integrity,” Dr. Harris stated. “We said that we will introduce legislation for the Term Limits, well we have already produced it. We will go back to it again but that has already been done and that was done in our very first year.”
In fact, the Tenure of Office of Prime Minister Bill, 2015, was introduced in the National Assembly of St. Kitts and Nevis on November 17, 2015. The Freedom of Information Bill, 2015, was also tabled in parliament and had its first reading in on September 15, 2015.
The prime minister said that government was not “running away” from its promises and announced that plans are being laid to contract a professional to help guide the operationalization of the ethics to guide public policy and public officials. That official is expected to be on island sometime next month.
Deputy Prime Minister, Honourable Shawn Richards, echoed that the two pieces of legislation will be completed within the five-year term that the government was elected to serve. He said a public education campaign will take place.
“The government as a responsible government isn’t just going to put legislation on the books and the people who are supposed to benefit from it, they don’t understand what the legislation is all about,” Honourable Richards stated. “And this is part of the Good Governance Agenda, ensuring that when you bring legislation, just as you would bring it for a first reading and then you give the public an opportunity to review it and if they have suggestions they are able to make those particular suggestions, part of it is also about educating the public with regard to these particular pieces of legislation and what standards they are going to hold the government to.” .
Similar legislation across the region and further afield also covers public officials such as permanent secretaries, members of statutory boards and all members of parliament (MP) to name a few.
Senior Minister, Honourable Vance Amory, said the government has lived up to its promises to report regularly to the public, about decisions made by the Cabinet.
“Good governance is more than having legislation. Good governance is following due process and the system is already in place,” the senior minister said, adding that guidelines are already outlined in the Constitution and other public documents that speak to civil service appointments and how MPs relate to constituents. “So when the government goes out and has a town hall to report to the people and have people directing their questions and concerns, and addressing those concerns, that’s part of the Good Governance Agenda.”
Other avenues used by government officials to report include press conferences – the prime minister stages one monthly, the Post Cabinet Briefing, the programme “Working for You” and one and one consultations. A series of public consultations will also be held on the Freedom of Information Bill.