‘No media’! But They Did It Anyway

Vendors retrieving what they can from the damages caused by TC Pam

Vendors retrieving what they can from the damages caused by TC Pam

A DRAMATIC INCREASE OF rent payment by 50% for each market (handicraft) vendor has raised healthy concerns of whether the current rate is meant to assist them to recover, or to add further pressure on their already tight up budgets.

The vendors used to pay VT6, 000 per month to the Port Vila Municipal Council (PVMC) for the former space at the sea front. Now, at a rate of VT450 per day, per vendor will have to pay about VT9, 000 per month (working days).

While the market vendors, who used to sell their products at the now damaged Vila Handicraft Market, appreciate the PVMC support in allowing them to use part of the city market house to sell their handicrafts, they want the government to step in and help them.

TIV contacted the PVMC Market Manager early last week to enquire on this matter, the response was “the handicraft mothers should appreciate the PVMC’s help.” The Market Manager continued to say that the market belongs to the farmers and not handicrafts mamas, therefore the vendors must not talk to the media, or else they would be removed from the market house.

However, the vendors have bravely stepped forward to demand assistance despite the warning. Last week they appeared in the media, and did the PVMC evacuate them? NO! This gives rise to further questions; why is the rent rate high despite TC Pam? And why were they told not to speak to the media?

A concerned mother from the Port Vila Handicraft Market Association said she wished that the government could allocate a certain amount of money to the PVC, for the Mamas Handicraft Market.

“We now need external support from the government, just because we were not prepared before Cyclone Pam,” she said.

She emphasized the fact that they are promoting Vanuatu and contributing to the economy of the country. The vendor claimed that every year the handicraft mamas at seafront contribute VT 30 million to the economy of Vanuatu because they also do direct exports.

“The government should recognize our contribution to the economy of this country and help us after the cyclone. They should allocate funds to the PVMC for the vendors, so that we could use a space freely to sell our handicrafts to tourists until such time when we recover from the disaster,” she explained.

Damaged Mamas Handicraft Market

Damaged Mamas Handicraft Market

The current rent rate for the Handicraft Mothers selling at the Market house is VT450 per person/per day, and VT50 each for the security provided per night.

The concerned vendor said “even if we don’t sell anything we must dig into our own pockets to get the VT450 and VT50 for the daily rent and for the security. We are just doing it to maintain the trust and relationship with the PVMC although it is a loss for us, because we have nowhere else to go after cyclone Pam damaged all our resources,” she said.

There are about 80 market vendors that are currently selling their handicrafts to tourists at the market house.

There have been a total of 5 cruise ships that have visited Port Vila since TC Pam over a month ago, before that it took only 2 weeks for that same number of cruise ships to visit. This sudden drop in demand adds economic pressure to the market vendors.

The majority of vendors sell their handicrafts when the cruise ships visit, on most day’s still a good number of vendors continue to sell.

Economic-wise, if we calculate the daily fees spent by approximately 80 vendors since April 8, the mothers will have already spent approximately more than VT500, 000 on the rent and security fees. This amount, though not yet in business for a full month, already doubles twice the amount that they used to pay per month at the now damaged Handicraft Market.

The concerned vendor, and mother reported that the Port Vila Handicraft Mamas Association deposited an amount of VT600, 000 to pay off the outstanding rent fees for the vendors before cyclone Pam. Therefore, using up almost all that they had left to rely on to confidently recover.

Apart from that each mother is responsible for paying their own permits and business licenses.

Furthermore, the vendors said their future is unsecured, because PVMC has not yet confirmed to them how long they can occupy the market house. They are worried that the Municipality can remove them from the current location anytime.

Can the government assist the market vendors? Of course they must. When?

25,000 Tonnes of Relief, 5 Islands & 24 Villages


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“ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY are improved through the forms (checklists & etc.) including receipts of expenses”, the Efate Offshore Islands Food Distribution Manager (FDM), Fred Samuel, reminded the Team Leaders and the volunteers during their de-brief earlier this week at the OGCIO Conference Room.

“To ensure that the distribution is safe, fair, and transparent, at least one member of the Vanuatu Mobile Force will be on hand at each distribution. Criminal penalties will apply to corruption, disruption, or misallocation of food rations”, a press statement by the government on 22 April reaffirmed the government’s commitment to fair distribution and penalties for corrupt acts prior to the operation taking place.

The Efate Offshore Islands Team includes individuals from Moso, Lelepa, Nguna, Pele and Emau. Fred Samuel, a native of the offshore island of Nguna himself, highlighted boldly one of the major challenges involved in the operation; family ties – 

“I do not care who it is, if it is my family I do not care, I care about the process,” he expressed.

The Efate Offshore Islands Food Distribution Manager, Mr Fred Samuel

The Efate Offshore Islands Food Distribution Manager, Mr Fred Samuel

The islands of Moso, Lelepa, Nguna, Pele and Emau received their second phase of relief supplies on April 23 – 24. 25,000 tonnes of supplies including a 5% buffer of supplies were loaded on board MV Melissa, it departed early in the morning on 23 April and returned after loading off the last supplies at Emau Island by nightfall the same day.

58 bags of rice were damaged during the operation, fortunately the 5% buffer supply managed to replace the damaged supplies. It was also reported that some of the statistics on the ground were not consistent with the statistics brought in from Port Vila. On Lelepa Island several different figures were presented by different community leaders, but this was later resolved as a geographical case, the differences in numbers was the result of the movement of people to and from Port Vila and those residing on the Lelepa mainland.

Overall, the operation went smoothly. At distribution points communities were allowed to question the volunteers and the Team Leaders, community leaders were also notified in advance of what was to happen when the supplies finally arrived. “The people were there when we arrived”, explained a Team Leader on Nguna, community volunteers assisted greatly with the distribution effort, it was the same case in all the offshore islands.11164557_1112571355425742_6250017677060478910_n

“They (villagers) liked it when we went there, because the first distribution was not good that is why people complained,” explained some of the Team Leaders. The de-brief revealed that during the first distribution a lot of the process confused the communities, “they just came and dropped the supplies and then they left”, but this time around the comments were different and positive.

Storage points were properly organised, and community leaders were properly informed. “We have yet to receive any complaints”, reported Mr. Fred Samuel, who is also the Government Chief Information Officer, he further advised that he is open to complaints, “they are lessons to be learned, and from there we can move on”. The photos and updates of the operation were posted regularly on Facebook therefore providing to the public a transparent real-time view of what was happening.

Transparency, accountability and honesty was emphasized throughout the de-brief. Did this process worked? Maybe! We have yet to see the response and feedback from the communities that were visited.

Compared to the first phase of relief distribution there is already a huge difference. However we also have to take note of the other factors that were involved, for instance the first phase occurred during a period of urgency while the second phase occurred more than a month after TC Pam stormed Vanuatu, a lot of extra supplies were already delivered to the islands by different groups and families thus reducing the urgency of the situation.

But still, it is the process that matters. Being transparent and accountable with what you do, especially when it is of the public’s interest, it makes you trustworthy and reliable. It boosts your confidence and sets highly your standards and principles.

Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) volunteered to assist in the second relief operation, being represented by a TIV senior officer on the island of Nguna.

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PAC Findings & Recommendations

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Out of 34 government statutory bodies in Va nuatu, 71% were not aware of their own Acts before the PAC Hearings began on the 1st of April.


A FURTHER 50% of all government statutory bodies do not have ‘qualified accountants’, and 51% of them were not aware of the Public Finance & Economic Management Act, this is according to the findings revealed by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on 10 April 2015.

It took 5 days of intense questionings and further unscheduled summons to satisfy the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The results surprised the PAC, even more surprising was that the leaders that were summoned seemed “not worried at all” of their failures, expressed the PAC Chairman MP Marcelino Pipite.

Every statutory bodies, government departments including the parliamentarians must go through the same process because they; get paid, spend, and allocated with funds that belongs to the public. The Public Finance & Economic Management (PFEM) Act, Part 10, Subsection 43 (1) states clearly that ‘Public money is the property of the State’, therefore the public has to be made aware of how funds are being spend.

The press conference that was held on 10 April delivered on the findings and the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee which will also be presented to the government:


Findings and Resolutions of the Hearing conducted on the 1st to the 9th of April 2015


1. Institutions do not comply with the Public Finance and Economic Management (PFEM) ACT, (17) 1.
2. Authorities supervising the institutions do not know about the PFEM ACT and own ACTs.
3. Many of these institutions manage to pay their salaries and benefits however failed to pay the government dividends.
4. Board members do not know how to administer their institutions.
5. There is no accountant hired in some of these institutions, and they have not recruited professional accountants to do professional duties.
6. The Heads of Institutions do not worry about breaking the law.
7. Money allocated and collected are State Money/ Public Fund – Part 10, subsection 43 (1).
8. The Public Accounts Committee used the Police on several cases to summon people, however did not prosecute anyone.


Recommendations
PAC to ask the Prime Minister and the government to:


1. Relook at the government state owned enterprises – if not paying any dividends then government must reconsider decisions.
2. Public Service to enforce the law of the Public Service:
a) When recruiting.
b) When they (Public Servants) do not do their jobs.
3. Ask the Public Service to enforce cap 246 (section 33 on allowances) – fees for official services when Director Generals and Directors are sitting as board members and receiving allowances.
4. VNPF – re-establish its subsidy companies (Limited Companies): Members Financial Services Limited (MFSL), Ranch de Bouffa Ltd, and VNBR with regards to their reporting requirements.
5. Government Remuneration Tribunal – check all salary scale across the board.
6. NISCOL – restructure before extending the concessional agreement.
7. Amend the Expenditure Review and Audit Act to enable the PAC and AG to punish to noncompliance to PFEM Act.
8. Ask VNPF to stop investing for the time being.
9. Ask the government to establish the Public Accounts Office – budget of VT5, 000,000.
10. Increase PAC budget: VT3, 000, 000 x 3 Hearings/year = VT 9, 000, 000.


Transparency International Vanuatu is preparing a more detailed summary of the findings, the short summary will be published online on the TIV blogsite http://www.tivnews.worpress, and in the paper.

You can subscribe to http://www.tivnews.wordpress to get the weekly news by Transparency International Vanuatu.

DG Bebe Not Happy About the Figures of People Affected by Cyclone PAM.

THE DIRECTOR GENERAL for the Ministry of Justice and Community Services is not happy about the figures of people who are affected by cyclone Pam.

At the Launching of a Women’s Information Centre at the National Disaster Management Office on Monday this week, Mr. Bebe said “at the moment Vanuatu is still guessing the figures for people who are affected by cyclone Pam”.

“I am surprised that we still cannot provide exact numbers of people who are affected, or who are really in need,” Mr. Bebe said.

The launching of a Women’s Information Center at the National Disaster Management Office

The launching of the Women’s Information Center at the National Disaster Management Office

“It shows the government’s inability” to ensure that everyone is getting help.

Mr. Bebe acknowledged the assistance being provided by the international community towards Vanuatu, he further encouraged the government and the NDMO to properly manage the aid supplies.

He emphasized that the NDMO must ensure relief goods reach their target areas.

Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) has also been observing, and taking note of the many complaints that are being raised by concerned members of the public,  the claim to have not received relief supplies after NDMO dispatched the first distribution of aid supplies more than two weeks ago.

TIV commends the relief effort being undertaken diligently, but the NDMO and all the organizations and the individuals who are involved in the relief program must also be fully aware of the potentials of corrupt acts, and the diversion of supplies and funds to their target areas.

“You Have Failed”: PAC

"You Have Failed"

“You Have Failed”

The current situation is alarming; did you know that three government institutions have no accounts department? Did you also know that several leaders of this institutions do not know that the Leadership Code actually exists? Did you know that roughly 80% of those that were summoned admitted to breaking the law by not abiding with the “financial rules”?


AS THE RELIEF effort continues to assist areas affected by cyclone Pam another cyclone is slowly but firmly taking ground at the parliament house. The last four days of public hearings by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has revealed more than what we think we know about the government statutory bodies.

By far the results are “disgraceful”, as the PAC Chairman MP Marcelino Pipite described, “it is a mess”, and in several of the hearings it was clear that the revenue received was being used only to operate the company without providing any dividends to the government. In some other cases the PAC stated that they were very “concerned that the government budgets to government institutions are being used only to pay for salaries” rather than on actual service deliveries.

Clearly, with more than 20 onlookers as witnesses, roughly 80% of those that were summoned admitted to breaking the law by not abiding by the Vanuatu Financial Management Act.

Having very high salaries and dealing with millions of vatu every single day without providing any financial report is alarming, and it demands tough actions. Salaries per month range from VT600, 000, 800,000 to 2 million vatu, the PAC and the onlookers were left in awe at the extravagant salary scales that were being offered by several of the government statutory bodies.

“Yet they report on deficits”, the PAC reported while trying to compare the high salaries to the reasons for the deficits, and the fact that some of them have not paid dividends to the government for years,

“and on top of their high salaries they are offered compny vehicles and fuel per month”.

Police officers are instructed to escort a leader who has not turned up for the PAC hearing

Police officers are instructed to escort a leader who has not turned up for the PAC hearing

Generally, each institution is supposed to be trusted and given the respect it deserves as an income generating mechanism for the government on behalf of the people of Vanuatu, therefore it is with great concern to know that the performance of this mechanisms is not as “capable” as we think.

Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) reported that there are vulnerable areas within the national institutions in July 2014, and recommending that areas such as the capacity, the governance and the role of the institutions be looked at and strengthened accordingly. With vulnerability corruption is bound to assume a more active invasive role therefore weakening the structures more.

In some cases the PAC discovered that funds were allocated to other parties without prior approval from the parliament, “only the parliament has the power to relocate state money” explained the PAC Chairman MP Marcelino Pipite, thus without prior approval from the parliament it is clear that the directives within the certain department was unprofessional and unethical.

Furthermore, during the course of the hearings the PAC mentioned a few times the existence of “mystery funds”, funds that had a name and a numerical value but had no records to prove whether they actually existed.

Transparency International Vanuatu would like to commend on the decisions and actions taken by PAC during the hearings, it shows the ideals of transparency and accountability, and it echoes the interest of the public. “This hearings should be carried out on a regular basis” a member of the public told TIV, it is important that the general public are made aware of the outcome of the hearings and to realise the importance of demanding better governance models and systems within the national institutions.

The PAC is expected to hold a press conference this afternoon at 2pm at the parliament house to report on their findings. TIV is aware that this is just the beginning of a longer process that will proceed until June, where the PAC will further analyse and report on the contents of the hearings.

The question on everybody’s mind now is: Will someone be penalised? Given Vanuatu’s very rare practice in prosecuting leaders it would be interesting to see if anyone is prosecuted at all. With this sudden but unsurprising results, TIV strongly urges that actions must be taken, and hope that changes happen for the betterment of Vanuatu.

The responsibilities of the Public Accounts Committee can be found here.

A Place To Report Your Grievances – ALAC

ALAC Logo

ALAC Logo

A place to report your grievances – Advocacy & Legal Advice Center


TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL VANUATU (TIV) has heard complaints being raised by members of the public concerning the unfair distributions of aid supplies. People are complaining about the unfair distribution of relief supplies via social media, the media, and even towards the National Disaster Management Office.

It is evident that in some areas, especially in Port Vila, out of a neighborhood of 10 households 2 or 3 of them were not included in the distribution of reliefs, this has raised a lot of concerns among the public on whether the coordination of community assessments was done in a well-coordinated manner.

In some communities it has been reported that more than one assessments were carried out by two different individuals while for some households they received nothing at all. Therefore people are encouraged to raise their concerns with the appropriate authorities and not be silent, if we speak up something can be done to address the issue.

For instance, if your home is badly damaged, yet your neighbors are receiving more aid even though their house is not damaged but because they have a relative working with the relief distribution teams then you must report it. It might be that it was just a genuine mistake, but whatever the case it is important to report to the authorities your situation and let them investigate the issue.

With massive bulks of relief supplies stored in certain locations, it would be hard to find out if one or two items have ‘disappeared’. Thus it is important for members of the public to report any form of irregularities within their communities, it is also important to be reminded that everyone has to receive a fair share of reliefs within a certain region.

If there are ‘highs and lows’ even on the same street then something is definitely wrong, and it should be reported immediately.

People survey the damages in Freswota, Port Vila in the morning after the cyclone (3)

TIV is assuring the public that it has a place where you can report your grievances, called ALAC. ALAC stands for Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC). It is a Legal Advice Centre that provides free legal advice and assistance to victims and witnesses of corruption.

ALAC’s aim is to help citizens and residents from all areas regardless of their status to pursue corruption based complaints and to encourage them to “speak out” and come forward in strict client confidentiality to further their complaint.

We have legal officers that are all qualified lawyers who can provide legal recommendations, or advice concerning the options available to each complainant. The ALAC is located at the Rivarec Pacific building in town. You can come and visit us to report your grievances. Or you can contact us on 29008 and speak to one of our lawyers.

Email: alacvanuatu@vanuatu.com.vu

Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Aid Assistance

Emergency relief being delivered

Emergency relief being delivered

AFTER CYCLONE PAM hit Vanuatu, international aid have been flowing into the country to support people who have been affected by the category 5 storm. Transparency International Vanuatu is concerned about the way humanitarian assistance are being distributed to the people of Vanuatu and the fact that corruption may be involved in some cases.

Humanitarian Assistance Aid can encounter many different corruption risks throughout the program cycle of the aid distribution, it is important to be aware of corruption risks in the process and prevent them from occurring.

Local Intermediaries

Partners and Local Intermediaries is one of the first things to be considered at the beginning of Humanitarian Assistance Aids operations. Humanitarian Aids Assistance has to create relationships with other organizations or appoint someone or a group within a community to help them with the progress of work on the ground.

In Vanuatu, there are local relief committees in each committee. Local relief or camp committees or volunteer groups often play an important role in planning and implementing humanitarian aid projects. Their decisions and actions are key to equitable programmes free from corruption and bias. But, when there is a biased relief committee, reports will be biased thus aid relief will also be biased.

Seafront littered with stones

Seafront littered with stones

A biased committee may divert aid from those who most need it towards their families, friends, ethnic or regional group, or those able to pay. To prevent a biased relief committee, it is recommended that committees or volunteers are not given total discretionary power.

It is important for observers and other relevant authorities to make random, surprise visits to observe committees or volunteers in action. It is also important to try to ensure strong female representation on a committee, and that women and minorities are not just present, but that they have a say in decision making.

Targeting Criteria

Consequently when there is a bias in relief committee there will be a bias in the targeting criteria. Thus, aid is effectively wasted as it does not get to the real emergency victims but is diverted to other groups who may have influenced the local relief committee.

Biased staff or local committee relief may deliberately set criteria that are very complex, making it harder for beneficiaries to hold an organization accountable and increasing the opportunities for corruption. To prevent this from happening it is important to use both geographic and administrative criteria.

False Exaggerated or Incomplete Reports

False exaggerated or incomplete reports are likely to be produced by biased staffs or local relief committees. It is very important that all assessment reports be accurate and independent, not biased. This is because the distributions depend on what is written on assessment reports. Thus to prevent false exaggerated or incomplete reports, it is recommended that reports are widely disseminated amongst key people in the organizations and committees to verify accuracy of information. Suspicious reports must be followed up.

Food Aid Kit     

The large volumes and high values involved make emergency food aid highly vulnerable to corruption; bulk foods are hard to identify if diverted corruptly. Throughout the supply chain, staff or partners may divert food for personal use or sale. Poor quality or adulterated food may be delivered by corrupt suppliers, or smaller amounts than contracted for may be supplied. Emergency victims will not receive the right amount of food aid kit they should receive if biased relief committees produce biased reports.

Inventory documents may be falsified and food smuggled out of warehouses or siphoned off during repackaging or

Relief supplies for 15 days

Relief supplies for 15 days

transportation. Local public officials may divert food, forcefully or with staff collusion. Food may be diverted during targeting or registration, through inflation of population figures. Distributors may reduce entitlements, skim food off for later sale, give more than the standard ration and later collect their share, or show bias to certain recipients.

Surpluses may be ‘ordered’ and sold by community leaders. Such practices must not be encouraged as the distribution of aid is progressing in Vanuatu.

Emergency victims deserve to receive the right amount of aid they are entitled to -, not more, not less. So, to prevent such corrupt practices there must be strict procurement policies, implemented by specialist staff. Follow strict prequalification and bid procedures when selecting suppliers; monitor the implementation of contracts to ensure deliveries are not undersized or adulterated. Additionally, humanitarian aid assistance organizations must ensure secure, safe storage and transport of food items, for instance, using formal procedures for arrival and dispatch.

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Moreover, carrying out needs assessment and targeting based on community participation is essential. It is vital to ensure you are reaching intended recipients only and that you publish information transparently. Furthermore, Design and monitor distribution carefully, in collaboration with recipients. Identify secure distribution sites, easily accessed by recipients.

Have signed agreements with staff and partners that food won’t be traded or sold. Encourage use of your complaint mechanism if entitlements aren’t received; investigate all missing goods. Consult the community over likely post-distribution events; tailor food delivery accordingly. And finally, monitor and evaluate your entire supply chain regularly counts as well in the prevention of corruption in distributing food aid kit.

Include spot-checks of storage, transport and distribution in all M&E reports. Make surprise site visits during transit and distributions, examine ration receipts or attendance lists, and verify with recipients that rations received match entitlements. Carry out ‘food basket verification’ and ensure containers are completely empty post-distribution.

Corruption poses a greater risk during situations like this, it is important that, among all the rush to meeting deadlines and ensuring that reliefs are dispatched, the monitoring and fairness of relief efforts must be maintained, and practically sustained throughout the entire relief and rehabilitation timeframe.

A copy of the Publication on : Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Assistance, can be downloaded here.

Source: Transparency International, 2014, “Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Aid Assistance”, Humanitarian Assistance, http://www.transparency.org/whatwedo/publication/preventing_corruption_in_humanitarian_operations