Governor Andrew Pearce ended his tour-of-duty on Monday afternoon, with the usual pomp and circumstances afforded the office. However, he leaves behind several issues that the incoming governor will need to tackle upon arrival.
In his final press conference on March 1, Governor Pearce said he and his family were very sad to be leaving Montserrat. Offering sincere thanks to the people of Montserrat, he said “we’ve had a wonderful time here and it’s been a joyful posting. We feel very lucky to have lived here for the last four years.”
He confessed his disappointment of not accomplishing more during his time as it relates to making significant inroads into the ongoing challenge of public sector reform. He said if he had known at the start what he knew now, it would have gotten him further.
Government Structures Too Complex
Pearce reiterated to the press what he has said many times since his arrival in January of 2018, the governance structures within the Government of Montserrat are too complex.
“I strongly believe in simplification. Montserrat’s structures of governance are too complex. It confuses people and dilates key messages,” he charged.
He said a paper had been submitted to Cabinet with some radical suggestions for restructuring and simplifying the governance structures. The feedback from public consultations on the integrity commission has been fed into that paper. Pearce said he hoped the recommendations would be adopted as it would be critical to improving the public sector.
Pearce has long spoken of a need to remove the many commissions in place and return more of the decision making to senior leaders. He added that the current disciplinary processes made many unhappy and that most senior managers were distant from making decisions with their staff. He continued to advocate for one main body that handled critical decisions and high-level appointments. Decision-making needed to be brought back into the public service for department leaders to handle instead of the continued outsourcing of decisions to the Deputy Governor, the Governor and Public Service Commission, he stated.
The outgoing official said the public service was not paid as much as he would like, the salaries and allowances structures were too complex but all and in all, people have jobs. Several attempts had been made to design a simpler pay scale but this work remains incomplete.
He encouraged Montserratians to take responsibility and ownership of how the public service operated and to help it become what they desired for it to be.
“Montserratian need to lift their eyes to the horizon to the big picture and from a more positive prism than most people are inclined to,” the governor told the media.
Governor Pearce said he advocates for Montserrat’s budget system to be adjusted to allow for any savings to carry over into the new financial year.
The annual battle to spend the budget in the waning weeks and days every March was a waste of resources and time, he stated. More flexibility was needed in how Montserrat handled its budget.
Who’s in Charge
Governor Pearce was once again asked to clarify the matter where the Deputy Governor Lyndell Simpson had authorised allowance increases for herself without following proper channels. To this, he said it had been an error on his part not to have thoroughly read the paperwork presented to him before signing off.
The matter, he said is under investigation by an independent body and the incoming governor will have to decide on the outcome.
On Monday, afternoon, the deputy governor was sworn in as acting governor by Attorney General Sheree Jemmotte-Rodney and will remain in post until the substantive postholder arrives on island.
However, according to an SRO signed on February 23, 2022, delegation of power on disciplinary matters in regards to the civil service and any matters assigned by the governor or deputy governor, has been given to British attorney Andrew Horton. The lawyer was granted permission to practice on island in 2021 (see SRO-No-40-of-2021).
Andrew Pearce and his wife, Pornpun left island on Fly Montserrat after a ceremonial inspection of the guards at the John A. Osborne Airport.
Ministers of government, along with senior members of the public service and staff from the Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) were at the airport for the send off.
Sarah Tucker has been announced as the island’s next governor and is expected to take up the post on March 20, 2022.