Author: Jeevan A. Robinson - MNI Media | Date: 08 October 2018
As far back as Elections 2014, Medical Doctor on the island of Montserrat, Hon Dr Ingrid Buffonge campaigned under the mandate of wanting to improve Healthcare on the island if elected. Having been elected to office, she was denied that Ministry by the PDM Administration, whose platform she was elected under. The Ministry was instead given to Hon Delmaude Ryan, who to date presently sits as the Minister with responsibility for Healthcare on Montserrat.
Members of the public have called repeatedly for the Ministry that Hon Ryan holds to be split, as the Ministry's full contingent portfolio includes also Youth, Education, Community Services and Religious Affairs. A huge Ministry no doubt.
However, the question MNI set out to explore today is whether it is truly that simple to split this Ministry and give Dr Buffonge her heart's desire, and also to give the public what they have been calling for?
MNI Media has uncovered that to split such a huge Ministry is not as simple as it sounds, as there is a clear cost implication, and also it will impact the Parliamentary composition of the Montserrat Legislative Assembly.
Both Health and Social Services in many ways already operate as a single Ministry; whilst Education, Youth Affairs and Sports also operate as another Ministry. Both entities, as outlined, have their own Permanent Secretaries/Accounting Officers.
The question that is causing much headache is regarding the portfolio assignments and how best to administer those from the policy level, MN Media has been informed by a Senior Civil Servant on Montserrat.
See below what the Montserrat Constitution Order 2010 has to say on this issue as it would appear that to get another Minister of Government, then the number of elected Representatives in the Montserrat Legislative Assembly would need to increase to 11
32.—(1) There shall be a Cabinet in and for Montserrat which shall consist of a Premier, three other Ministers and two ex officio members, namely the Attorney-General and the Financial Secretary.
(2) The number of Ministers referred to in subsection (1) may be increased by a law made in pursuance of section 48(2) which increases the number of elected members of the Legislative Assembly; but in no circumstances may the number of such Ministers be increased so that the total number of Ministers exceeds a number arrived at by subtracting one from the total number of elected members of the Legislative Assembly and then dividing by two.
(3) Subject to this Constitution, the Cabinet shall have the general direction and control of the government of Montserrat and shall be collectively responsible for it to the Legislative Assembly.
(4) The Deputy Governor shall
have the right to attend in any meeting of the Cabinet, but shall not have the right to vote in the Cabinet.
Now, we move on to the matter of compensation for Dr Ingrid Buffonge.
Dr Buffonge was in a position where she was both a public servant, and also an elected member of government. Many would recall that there was a big upset between herself and Premier Romeo regarding a role for her, where her medical skills could be utilised most effectively whilst being compensated for the same.
Upon coming into office the facts will show that following the recommendations of the Electoral Commission, moves were made to set an increased salary for the post of Parliamentary Secretary, so that another elected member could be appointed to carry out some of the policy functions in the Ministry with reasonable remuneration.
As regards Dr Ingrid Buffonge, a specific Act of Parliament was passed to do with her situation, and to pay Dr Buffonge an additional salary as the Casualty Doctor.
See the details of the Act passed below:
See the full link to the ACT here: http://agc.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Act-No.-6-of-2015-References-to-public-office-Montserrat-Constitution-Order-Medical-Officer-Accident-and-Emergency-Act-2015.pdf
The Act applies to Dr Ingrid Buffonge only, and is valid up until the next election on Montserrat that is constitutionally due around September 2019.
As it regards this provision that was enacted for Dr Buffonge, it seems as if Hon Ryan is stating via her comments this morning live on air with Basil Chambers, that Montserrat's primary benefactors, The Department for International Development (DFID) is saying they do not approve of these types of actions, as perhaps it was being seen to be to the benefit of a Member of Parliament who got elected on the ruling PDM Administration's ticket.
Was this a factual statement? MNI Media will check with DFID to find out if it was truly so.
But was this move a play by the PDM to appease Dr Buffonge electorally as she did not get the Health Ministry she desired? Or was it a move to utilise an available Health professional that was readily available on island?
Editor's Note: MNI Media awaits Hon Dr Buffonge's response to our requests asking for her comment on the statements made via the media.