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Constitutional Review Recommendations – The Executive



Part 4

The Constitutional Review Commission has recommended a restructuring of the Executive aimed at curbing the extensive prime ministerial power.

Under the present structure all roads lead to the prime minister.

While the Constitution states that “the executive authority of Saint Vincent is vested in Her Majesty” and therefore by extension her representative – the Governor General, he has to act on advice of the prime minister. Unless the Governor General is authorised to do otherwise, he is duty bound to act on ministerial advice which practically in all cases is the will of the prime minister.{{more}}

Cabinet is appointed by the prime minister and though the Governor General is the person who appoints and revokes ministerial appointments, he does so on the advice of the prime minister who therefore has the power to hire and fire members of Cabinet. When the number of Cabinet ministers constitutes the majority of Parliament then all roads and all power leads straight back to the prime minister.

Against this background the Constitutional Review Commission has made several recommendations on the shape of the Executive.

• Cabinet should not constitute a majority of the total membership of the National Assembly. The National Assembly should consist of 27 persons with no more than 13 Cabinet positions inclusive of that of the Prime Minister;

• On the occasion of the formation of a new Administration the ministries and their respective departments should be structured by the prime minister but any subsequent alteration during the life of that administration should be notified to the National Assembly with the appropriate rationale for the change;

• The Prime Minister should continue to be the political representative who commands the support of a majority of the political representatives but no one should be permitted to serve as prime minister for more than two terms of office or for more than ten years;

• Parliamentary Secretaries should not be members of the Cabinet;

• The oath of allegiance taken by members of Cabinet and members of the National Assembly should reflect allegiance to the state of St Vincent and the Grenadines;

• The office of Attorney General should always remain a public office. The Attorney General should be given the right to be consulted in the appointments, promotions and transfers of professional members of his/her staff;

• The Director of Public Prosecutions should be given the right to be consulted in the appointments, promotions and transfers of professional members of his/her staff;

• The Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy should be abolished. Its functions should be performed by National Advisory Council of Elders (NACE) (see Searchlight November 17), either by the entire membership or by a Standing Committee;

• Whilst the Prime Minister should continue to be consulted by the Public Service Commission on the appointment of the Cabinet Secretary, Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Government Departments, the Prime Minister’s veto power should be confined to the office of the Cabinet Secretary;

• The independent office of Ombudsman should be instituted as a constitutional office, supported by ordinary legislation;

• The Ombudsman should be elected by the National Assembly from a short list of persons provided by NACE, and he should be accountable to the National Assembly for the proper performance of his functions;

• The main function of the Ombudsman should be to investigate allegations of abuse of administrative powers and processes and to provide such procedural and substantive directions as may be set out in appropriate legislation;

• The office of Ombudsman should be adequately funded from public funds and adequately housed and staffed;

• The tenure of the Ombudsman should be for a specified period, subject to renewal as may be appropriate. Premature termination of the Ombudsman’s tenure should occur only for death, resignation, emigration, physical or mental incapacity, or for cause.