Minister Issues Order for Provincial Secretaries to be Caretaker Administrators for the Provinces of Western and Choiseul
Following the natural dissolution of the Provincial Assemblies of Western and Choiseul Provinces on 13th June 2022, the Minister of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening (MPGIS), Hon. Rollen Seleso, gives orders under section 47 of the Provincial Government Act for the Provincial Secretaries for the two Provinces to be Caretaker Administrators before elections are held on the 14th of December 2022.
The Orders (Legal Notice No. 205 for Choiseul, and Legal Notice No. 206 for Western), PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1997 (No. 7 of 1997) that are contained in the Gazzette was issued on the 24th of June 2022.
Minister Seleso issues the order considering the power and administrative vacuum that have resulted from the dissolution of the Provincial Assemblies of the two Provinces, which impact on the Governance and Financial Management decision making until the proposed election date of 14th December 2022 or thereafter.
The Minister’s orders take into consideration the latest advice from the Electoral Commission which indicates that the elections for Choiseul and Western Provinces shall be delayed to December 14th this year because of the need to carry out registration of voters to update the electors list. Registration of voters would cover the months of August, September and October 2022. Preparations for elections would be on November 2022 with the elections proper on the 14th of December 2022. Since there would be a six-month gap, the Minister considers it imperative to establish a caretaker administration to ensure continuity of service delivery in the two Provinces.
The Order (a) specifies that there is to be no election of the Provincial Assembly following the dissolution of the Assembly on 13 June 2022 before 14 December 2022; and (b) appoint the Provincial Secretary as Caretaker Administrator of the Province; and (c) require that, until the election of the Provincial Assembly is held on the proposed date of 14th December 2022 or other appointed date, the Provincial Secretary: (i) oversees the affairs of the Province, including its Financial Management; and (ii) in doing so, complies with the guidelines specified in the Schedule.
The schedule specifies that:
- Service delivery to the Province must continue uninterrupted;
- The Provincial Budget approved by the Provincial Assembly in March 2022 must be expended;
- Because there was no supplementary Budget appropriated by the Province, the spending must be within the Annual Budget 2022/2023;
- As the Caretaker Administration is not an elected body, it cannot assume the role of either the Provincial Executive or the Provincial Assembly specified in section 36(1) and (2) of the Act;
- The chart of accounts for the Provincial Budget referred to in subparagraph (b) must be applied without deviations until the new Provincial Assembly is elected and convenes a meeting to revise the Annual Budget;
- The Caretaker Administration cannot spend any additional revenue that may be generated by the Revenue Division over and above the current approved revenue projection unless it is appropriated by the Provincial Assembly as required by section 13(1) of the Financial Management Ordinance 2018;
- Any donated funds or transfers paid into the Provincial Accounts are, Provincial Funds and, if they were not included in the Annual Budget 2022/2023 they must not be expended until there is a Provincial Assembly appropriation for that fund (Part 1, section 3 of Financial Management Ordinance 2018);
- Budget Heads that are already exhausted must not be overspent until a revision takes place;
- Because there is no Provincial Executive to approve any virements, there must be no virements (and this will ensure compliance to section 36(2) of the Act);
- Capital Development project implementation must continue as approved in the Annual Budget for 2022/23;
- Since variations lead to virements, which would require Provincial Executive and Assembly decisions, the Caretaker Administration must not apply any variation until the Members of the Provincial Assembly are elected (and this will ensure adherence to sections 9(3), 15, 16 and 17 of the Financial Management Ordinance 2018;
- During the Caretaker Administration period:
- the Caretaker Administration must avoid any major or significant recruitment that would require endorsement by the Provincial Executive; and
- the Provincial Secretary and the Provincial Administration may only recruit casual workers if budgeted for under the Annual Budget 2022/2023;
- The Caretaker Administration must not make political statements against the Provincial Executive whose term ended on 13 June 2022 or any future Provincial Executive;
- The Caretaker Administration must not make any payments or pay accounts for the Provincial Assembly or the Provincial Executive whose term ended on 13 June 2022 other than for expenditure incurred before 13 June 2022;
- The Provincial Tender Board must continue to issue contracts and award tenders for continuation of the implementation of Provincial Capacity Development Fund projects and other Capital Development Projects;
- The Caretaker Administration must inform the Ward Development Committees that the Members of the Provincial Assembly ceased to be members of those Committees on and from 13 June 2022;
- Ordinances made before 13 June 2022 must be implemented;
- The Provincial Accounting Specialists must present their fortnightly briefing to the Provincial Secretary and the Expenditure Committee;
For the Provincial Government to meet the Minimum Conditions of reporting, the monthly report, which before 13 June 2022 would have been given to the Provincial Premier, must be given to the Provincial Secretary