Joint Statement By Governor Augustus Jaspert And
Premier Dr. The Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE
On The Publicising Of Cabinet Decisions
Thursday, 27th September, 2018
Today marks a milestone in the history of the Territory of the Virgin Islands as a summary of policy decisions taken by the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands will, for the first time, be made public on a weekly basis in keeping with the Government’s commitment to promote more openness and transparency.
The summary of Cabinet decisions will be made public every Thursday by the Cabinet Office and today decisions taken at the meetings of 5th, 12th and 19th September, 2018 are being released (see attached).
The publicising of Cabinet decisions presents another opportunity for the Government to position itself as one willing to strengthen its institutional pillars by implementing systems or initiatives to promote transparency and accountability—two underpinning principles of good governance. Furthermore, the proliferation of social media has transformed the way in which we communicate; therefore, it is incumbent upon governments to re-think their modes of communication when considering the public’s right to know.
It is in this spirit that the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands considered the need for a systematic and consistent approach to inform the public of the Cabinet at work as it decides on the future of this Territory on a weekly basis. We believe that this initiative will help the public to understand and appreciate the functions and operations of the Cabinet as the highest policy making body in the Executive branch of government. It is also our hope that this initiative would encourage greater public participation and strengthen the public’s confidence in the decision-making process of policies, which affects their livelihood in some way.
The weekly publicising of Cabinet decisions will not be the only communication channel by which the public will learn of policy decisions and this will in no way preempt the Governor, the Premier, or any other Minister from making formal announcements or providing further details on Cabinet decisions relating to their respective portfolios.
The objective is for the Governor, the Premier and Ministers to subsequently provide the media and the public with additional details of their respective Cabinet decisions, where relevant, via press conferences, press briefings, press releases, policy statements in the House of Assembly, GIS interviews or any other appropriate mode of communication. Although this is already the practice, this initiative facilitates the opportunity for Government Ministries to consistently update the public.
Cabinet decisions will be publicised under the following guidelines:
- Cabinet decisions will be published by the Cabinet Office following confirmation of the minutes.
- Only a summary of the decisions will be published.
- Cabinet discussions will not be disclosed.
- Cabinet decisions of a sensitive nature, matters of national security, those in breach of regional or international conventions and those relating to personal privacy will not be disclosed.
- Cabinet decisions will be published in the Virgin Islands Official Gazette every Thursday at www.eservices.gov.vg/gazette and on Twitter.
The Territory of the Virgin Islands now joins fellow UK Overseas Territories of Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands, Cayman Islands and Anguilla, who also make varying forms of their decisions public every week. Therefore, the publicising of Cabinet decisions marks another milestone in this Territory’s journey as a politically mature jurisdiction that is willing to embrace the principles of openness, transparency and accountability, which are also central to an effective and proactive communication process.
The Territory saw the introduction of a Cabinet form of government following a new Constitution in 2007. The Cabinet is the authority above all Ministries, Departments, Statutory Boards, Enterprises and Agencies of Government, except where it is clearly stated but does not have authority over the House of Assembly or the Judiciary of the Virgin Islands.
The Cabinet of the Virgin Islands is constitutionally charged with the formulation of policy, including directing the implementation of those policies. It is also collectively responsible to the House of Assembly for such policies and their implementation.
Decisions are taken collectively and only the Premier and the four Ministers have a vote in the Cabinet. The Attorney General, who sits as Legal Advisor to the Cabinet and the Governor, who chairs the meetings, do not have a vote.
The Cabinet of the Virgin Islands, which meets every Wednesday, is supported by the Cabinet Office, which facilitates and monitors the implementation of executive decision-making within the government.