Recently the Acting State Representative Jan Helmond sent a letter to the Public Entity Saba regarding the publication of Executive Council decisions. The letter states that an action plan is demanded to improve the situation. Because of the letter the Public Entity Saba wants to stress it fully agrees with the importance of transparency and accountability and that the Executive Council actively informs the Island Council, publicizes decisions on the website, and is always open to requests for information. The Executive Council regrets that it seems not to be clear to Mr. Helmond what the actual situation on Saba is. And the Executive Council admits that in the last quarter of 2022 and the first quarter of 2023, there were backlogs in the flow of information. This was because of capacity reasons, while the Executive Council has always stressed the importance of transparency.
The Executive Council of the Public Entity Saba has weekly meetings. In those meetings, many decisions are made. Some of those decisions are directly beneficial to individual citizens or employees of the Public Entity. Those decisions cannot be communicated because of privacy reasons. Other decisions are about policies, new initiatives, implementation of policies, situations on the island, permits for businesses or buildings, or finance of the Public Entity. Those decisions are actively communicated with the Island Council and publicized on the website of the Public Entity on a weekly basis, mostly within a week after the meeting of the Executive Council. For decisions that have an impact on the island in the broader sense, separate press releases and publications on the website and posting on social media are initiated. The decision list is also an invitation to the Island Council to ask specific questions so that the Executive Council can provide more detailed information.
A good habit is that the Island Council and the general public and businesses are actively invited to participate in the early stages of policy development. Numerous meetings are organized. Recently for instance the Public Health Report, Digitalization, and Spatial Planning. When delegations of the national governments visit Saba, the Executive Council always pledges for meetings with members of the Island Council. Mostly those meetings with these delegations happen, so that the members of the Island Council can give input to new policies and national decisions and so that they can hear from the source what the intentions of the national government are.
The Executive Council organizes technical briefings for members of the Island Council on relevant topics. In the early stages of policy formulation civil servants who are experts on topics brief the members of the Island Council on legal frameworks and policy ideas and consult them on what direction members of the Island Council see as desirable for the island.
Meetings of the Island Council are open to the public and are live streamed online. Decisions by the Island Council are always publicized in press releases and on the website and through social media.
Of course, there is always room for improvement, and the document flow between the Executive Council, Island Council, and the general public can and must be improved. The Executive Council strongly supports transparency and at the same time has the obligation to guard privacy aspects, legitimate business confidentiality, and efficiency of the organization.
Currently, a digital application for decision-making is being implemented. In a next phase, expectedly early 2024, this application will also be available for informing the Island Council, for decision-making by the Island Council, and for informing the general public.
The Acting State Representative Jan Helmond has invited the Executive Council to draft a plan to further improve the transparency of decision making. This plan will build upon the new legal framework that came into practice since July 1st, 2023. The plan will be submitted before October 1st this year.