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”.
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.