On the first day of the hearings, all the government statutory bodies summoned to the parliament failed to satisfy the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
ON WEDNESDAY THIS WEEK, out of seven hearings, none managed to impress the 5 present members of the PAC including the Chairman, MP Marcelino Pipite.
“One thing that was common in all of them, they failed. They failed to comply with the Vanuatu Financial Management Act (VFMA),” stated the PAC Chairman, “that is to provide a financial report and an audit report after a financial year, all of them failed.”
The sittings took place at the Parliament House, at the ‘Tut blong Pig’; despite the windy weather and the occasional pour of light rain the sitting proceeded. The heads of government statutory bodies were asked why they did not submit their yearly reports, some dating back to the early 2000’s.
“How can you be sure that you are operating on an accurate budget if you do not have last year’s audited report to work from?” a PAC member would occasionally ask the summoned, their responses would falter widely, but only to be interrupted and brought back to the specific by the firm control of the PAC Chairman.
The PAC’s judgment was clear and specific, “we want your reports by the end of April,” other reports were re-scheduled to be received by the end of May and June. “What will happen if some of the reports are not received as scheduled?” TIV asked, “I can only say that some of them are already in the wrong position,” the PAC Chairman responded.
Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) asked the PAC Chairman what was motivating him to be tougher in his term as PAC Chairman compared to previous chairman’s, “I remember the time when I was a member of the MBC (Ministerial Budget Committee). The government institutions submit their requests for budgets, and we provide it to them…but now that I hold this position, (I am) on the other side. Some people (institutions) ask for funds maybe because they really need it, but others receive it instead, and then they do not provide a report… that is why I am tough on them”.
“Let us not forget”, warned the PAC Chairman, “one of our roles at the PAC is to advice the government on economic policy. And we are thinking of advising the government, regarding the institutions that are not providing reports, that instead of increasing their budgets, we will reduce their budgets. That is an economic advice on policy that we are thinking of”.
“I want that by January of 2016, all of these institutions will be on the same level. Not one will be left behind nor one in the front, I belief that I will ask the government to make some changes on the work of some of this institutions”.
On the morning session of the second day of the hearings the rulings had not changed, failure to provide a reasonable reason for undelivered reports demanded tough sanctions from the PAC.
Transparency International Vanuatu released the National Integrity System report for Vanuatu last year in July; the report examines and reports on the capacity, role, the governance, and the competency performance of the major institutions that are responsible for upholding the national integrity level of Vanuatu. The report identified that there are major areas that needs strengthening within the institutions, it was also reported that not one single institution managed to reach a satisfactory score.
Given the unsatisfactory level of Vanuatu’s national integrity, the ongoing failure of financial and audit reporting by the government statutory bodies may just be the reflection of the outcome of Vanuatu’s National Integrity System report.
A soft copy of the report is available upon request; contact TIV on 29008, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org