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Cabinet Approves Amendments to GOM General Orders

The Cabinet of Montserrat has approved a number of amendments to the Government of Montserrat General Orders for the Public Service, a statement from the Office of the Deputy Governor read.

According to the press release, “the amendments are intended to give effect to some identified gaps in the Public Administration Regulations while the Government awaits the completion of this document.

Currently there is much debate about the continued use of General Orders, which many believe are outdated. The issue was highlighted following the decision to cancel the St Patrick’s Festival annual lecture because the keynote speaker was a civil service whose presentation had not been vetted by senior officials.

“Key areas to the amendments are the administration of Social Security benefits; maternity and paternity leave; public officers and the press; engagement of public officers in political activities; and conduct and discipline of public officers.

“The amendments were made following wide-ranging consultation on the General Orders.

“The changes include where a public officer fails to comply with the General Orders or the Public Service Code of Conduct set out in Appendix VIII, he/she is liable to disciplinary action.

“There’s also an improvement to the existing provisions related to public officers and the press.  A public officer is restricted from, in the absence of the prior approval of the Governor, using his official capacity or information gained in his official capacity to act as editor or contribute to, publish or cause to be published certain publications. A public officer is also restricted from engaging in any interview on a matter of a political or administrative nature or a matter affecting the administration or the security of a state or territory and broadcasting in any way on a matter which may reasonably be regarded as of a political or administrative nature.  Furthermore, certain public officers are restricted from engaging in certain acts of a political or administrative nature in their private capacity, in the absence of the prior approval of the Governor.

“Additionally, a public officer is restricted from engaging in certain political activities in his official capacity, including activities that may compromise his impartiality or neutrality in his official capacity.

“Another amendment to the Government of Montserrat General Orders is that person is entitled to full pay on sick leave, less any amount payable to the public officer as sickness benefit payment by the Accountant General. This change seeks to prevent a public officer from collecting both his full salary while on sick leave and an additional payment from the Social Security Fund, which is contrary to the reason for the existence and the prosperity of the Fund.

“The period of maternity leave granted to a female who is permanent and pensionable or employed for a period of at least twelve consecutive months was increased. The maternity leave period is increased from one month to three months, which aligns it with the period granted to a female employee under the Labour Code (Cap. 15.03).

“Paternity leave will be granted to a public officer whose spouse or de facto spouse is on maternity leave.”