Condolences To The Family Of Late Honorable Edward Nipake Natapei

PEOPLE IN VANUATU celebrated the Independence Day this week, remembering Vanuatu’s struggle for independence. Sadly, while gaining another independence anniversary, Vanuatu lost a national leader. On 28 November the late Honorable MP for Port Vila, Edward Natapei, passed away.

The late MP Edward Natapei began his political career in 1983, he served as politician for over 30 years. He served twice as the Prime Minister of the Republic of Vanuatu, apart from that he also served as the Parliament Secretary and as the Leader of the Opposition. He held the position of the Vanua’aku party Presidency until his passing away.

Vanuatu was shocked by the sudden loss of a great and humble leader.

The Late Honorable Edward Natapei was one of Transparency International Vanuatu’s (TIV) strong supporters, he was an active community leader, a humble national leader, and a well-spoken regional leader.

The late Minister was one of the leaders who stood up against corruption, and strived to promote transparency and good governance in the government.

When he was elected Prime Minister for the second time in 2008 he announced that some of his government primary policies would include transparency, good governance and fighting corruption. Despite facing challenges, he held on in his reign as the head of government until 2011.

On March 2013, the then Minister Natapei backed Moana Carcasses as the new Prime Minister replacing Sato Kilman who resigned after MPs from government side crossed floors. Moana Carcasses appointed Late Edward Natapei Deputy Prime Minister and the foreign affairs minister.

As Minister for Foreign Affairs, he applied Carcasses’ policy in beginning a clean-up of the sale of diplomatic passports by previous governments. Within his first few days in office, he revoked the passports of “about ten” diplomats who are understood to have bought them. After the revocations Late Natapei also indicated that more than two thirds of the country’s diplomats could lose their position, as their appointment had not followed proper procedures.

Radio New Zealand reported that Mr. Natapei indicated that as many as 70 of the 99 overseas representatives could lose their jobs, says many honorary consuls and other diplomatic representative appointments were made without following the proper procedure.

Transparency International Vanuatu during that time acknowledged his efforts to fight this corrupt practice, which has continued to challenge the sovereign integrity of Vanuatu.

First elected into parliament in 1983, the late national leaders leaves behind his legacy in the different positions that he held; a former Prime Minister, a former foreign affairs minister, a former Infrastructure and Public Utilities Minister, a former speaker of parliament and the Vanua’ aku Party Leader.

The Chairman, Board Members and the Staff of Transparency International Vanuatu would like to send our sincere condolences to the families of Late Honorable Eward Nipake Natapei. No one can prepare you for a loss; it comes like a swift wind. But take comfort in knowing that he is now resting in the arms of our Lord.

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It Is Time To L.I.N.K

A ‘FAMILIARIZATION”  WORKSHOP was held last week on the 15th and the 16th at the Vanuatu Financial Services Commission Conference Room in Port Vila. Several agencies from the corruption and criminal complaints sector were involved in this initiative. The two days of discussions brought around more realisations and understandings into the workings of the different agencies, including identifying specific paths to undertake in the future.

Participants at the familiarization workshop were the Ombudsman of the Republic of Vanuatu Mr. Kalkot Mataskelekele including an Investigator. Also included was an officer from the Public Service Compliance Unit, senior officers from the Vanuatu Police
Force Criminal Investigations Depart and the Fraud Unit, officers from the Financial Intelligence Unit, and the Chairman of the Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) Dr. Willie Tokon, including staff members.

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The workshop was organised under a project initiated by Transparency International Vanuatu called L.I.N.K
(Leftemap Intekriti, No Korapsen) . It was a participatory workshop, each participating agency was allocated an hour to present on several relevant topics before the other participants could seek clarification on some of the points presented.

This familiarisation workshop was organised for several reasons. First of all, during an Anti-Corruption workshop that was held at the Le Lagoon by UNCAC, UNDP and the Ministry of Justice. The participants at LINKthe workshop, which included several Parliamentarians, identified the lack of effective relationships between anti-corruption institutions in Vanuatu. A participant from the workshop elaborated on the fact that the relationship between anti-corruption institutions is lacking in a lot of areas, there is the habit of being isolated from the same community of practice.

Furthermore, even though Vanuatu has achieved several achievements there are still challenges that combat the increase of anti-corruption measures, especially the lack of political will, insufficient resources and the lack of institutional and human resources capacity.

As a way forward from that workshop it was agreed by the participants that the Government must urgently review the Ombudsman Act, provide more community awareness programs and provide sufficient budget to support anti-corruption agencies. The government must also draft an Anti-Corruption Policy and Legislation to make sure that we have to be well equipped to fight against corruption to increase our status in the Corruption Perceptions Index.

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At the end of that workshop, an outcome statement was presented to the Government. A priority in the statement included the need to strengthen inter-agency coordination and cooperation on corruption and criminal issues.

Secondly, in 2014 the National Integrity System (NIS) report for Vanuatu was published by TIV after a year of doing research on the national pillars. The report identified that Vanuatu does not have “an independent preventive anti-corruption body or bodies. The activities of this body could include: developing laws and policies relating to anti-corruption; overseeing and coordinating the implementation of anti-corruption policies; increasing and disseminating knowledge about how to prevent corruption; and supporting the development of a government/non-government anti-corruption coalition.” (Download NIS Report here)

The report further recommended that if there was more inter-agency coordination’s it could be “could be important in providing expertise and advice” on anti-corruption policies.

Thus, the L.I.N.K Project was initiated with the goal of promoting exchanges and developing mutual understanding so each office can become more familiar with each other’s responsibilities, and at the same time look at ways to strengthen each other against challenges faced.

The first day of the workshop was facilitated by an officer from TIV, while the officer from the Public Service Compliance Unit facilitated the discussions on the second.

Several resolutions were set out by the workshop to further the discussions for potential future collaborations between the participating agencies.

An Affair That Lead To The Alleged Abuse of Power

WHEN MRS. TOM (not her real name) traveled out of Vanuatu, without her husband’s knowledge, on 28 November 2014 to Fiji her genuine active passport was lying in a safety storage at her husband’s workplace. And when Mr. Tom (not his real name) could not find his wife, he followed up on some suspicious activities that he had encountered. He later found out that his wife had ‘illegally’, as he put it, traveled to Fiji (She is originally from Fiji). Also, further investigations revealed the existence of a second active passport under the same name but with two different dates of birth; a year and a month apart. 

Passport Copies in Color

Copies of the first and second active passport.

In Mr. Tom’s investigations he discovered that her travelling was assisted by several public servants. Mr. Tom, who works for a government statutory body in Vanuatu, was left to look after their two little children of six years old and a baby who was just four months old.

His story is one of a kind, it involves allegations of fraud, abuse of power, misuse of public assets for sexual desires and ‘hijackings’, all of which were allegedly instigated by a high level public servant who, due to the sensitivity of the matter and ongoing investigations, we shall call Mr. Carl. This Mr. Carl is a prominent public figure, he served as the head of one of Vanuatu’s most handy departments.

Mr. Tom entered the Transparency International Vanuatu office on a quiet evening. He did not say much, instead he had in his hand a packed yellow A3 size envelope. He placed it down on the front desk, “this is for you” he said. He looked neither concerned nor angry, he looked tired, and with a tired smile he shut the door behind him.

Inside the yellow envelop there were copies of three different letters all addressed to three different people; The Prime Minister, the Public Service Commission Acting Chairman, and the Fraud Department. Another separate file of papers contained neatly structured and explained evidences to support his three letters.

Mr. Tom had been doing some investigations on his own, in the case documents he identified a police officer, an immigration officer and other individuals who he states were accomplices to and controlled by a “very cunning individual”. This people, he states, arranged for his wife to travel out of the country using a fake passport.

Mr. Tom and his wife had been married for ten years. About a year ago, she began having an affair with Mr. Carl. In his letter to the Prime Minister Mr. Tom reported that Mr. Carl “had been using a Vanuatu Government Official White G Plate Car…during Vanuatu Official Working Hours, between 7:30 AM – 4:30 PM, to do runs related to unofficial and non-productive, waste of resources, fuel, valuable time, abuse of public assets for personal gains”. Mr. Tom stated that Mr. Carl used this vehicle “as a means to accomplish one mission, which is to fulfil the immoral sexual affairs.”

Since this case came to light Transparency International Vanuatu has been told that Mr. Carl has been suspended from his public service position, and the Public Service Commission have responded to Mr. Tom that the Prime Minister will need to deliberate on the next decision.

The details on the case documents raises eyebrows, one thing for sure was that when the affair developed it triggered a list of suspicious activities. First of all, Mr. Tom was visited at his workplace by an immigration officer and a police officer who was in civilian uniform on November 13 2014. The officers asked to see his wife’s passport, Mr. Tom refused to show it to them as he was suspicious of their demands.

Later, when Mr. Tom visited the authorities’ concerned to investigate on the suspicious visit, he was told that those officers were not supposed to go around demanding to see passports.

Interestingly, on that same date (13 November) when he was visited by the officers, Mr. Tom did not know that his wife was being issued with another active passport. He found out about this a few weeks later. After examining carefully the details on a copy of the second active passport, Mr. Tom found some differences to his wife’s original passport.

From this case, it is evident that the misuse of public assets including public positions is being misappropriated for personal gains, which is in other words an act of corruption.

According to the Leadership Code ‘Leaders shall not use their offices for personal gain or enter into any transaction or engage in any enterprise or activity that might give rise to doubt in the public mind as to whether he or she is carrying out or has carried out the duty imposed by law’. Any leader who breaches the Leadership Code is subject to investigations, and prosecuted if found guilty by the courts.

Mr. Tom came to Transparency International Vanuatu as a victim with his family, he agreed for us to share his story,

“I want my story to go out, some people out there may be facing the same situation” he said, some people out there may be facing the same situation but are not able to do anything. Maybe if he did something about the situation, it will help them somehow, Mr. Tom said.

Today he lives at his home with his children who do not know where their mother is. All he knows, from what he told TIV, is that a public servant and his accomplices took away his wife, they sneaked her out of the country without his concern using a passport that, though it contained some wrong information, was not detected.

The case has been lodged with the Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) for further follow ups. ALAC was established in 2009 by Transparency International Vanuatu, with the purpose of helping people by providing free and confidential legal advice to witnesses and victims of corruption. Email: alacvanuatu@vanuatu.com.vu, Tel: 29008.

The Challenges To Media Freedom In Vanuatu

NEWS

THIRTY FIVE LONG YEARS years since gaining independence, the freedom that is legally required by the media and the general public to access information that is of public interest, is still limited.

According to the 2014 Vanuatu National Integrity System (NIS) that was published by Transparency International Vanuatu, “there is no freedom of information law. The law does not promote freedom through measures such as freedom of information, although reforms are currently in place”.

“Whilst Freedom of Expression is enshrined in the Constitution, there are no specific laws protecting media freedom or editorial independence.  There are no laws allowing access to information.”

As a matter of fact, the Official Secrets Act permits the government to restrict access to a wide variety of materials.

The Right to Information Bill was listed to be debated in the parliament in November 2014, but it was later withdrawn by the attorney general for further corrections before it was discussed. Until today, the bill is still being reviewed.   Consequently, the media’s right to access information is still legally limited by law.

Apart from laws that constitute media freedom, history shows a list of different forms of retaliations that were taken by unhappy individuals and leaders towards media companies and personals.

Since 2009 there has been a consistent record of attacks and threats to media people and companies from the members of parliament, ministers and the government.

It has been observed that more subtle intimidation also occurs at times.

Reactions to Media Regulations

Last week Prime Minster Sato Kilman, who is also responsible for the media, raised concerns through the Broadcast Regulator Fred Vurobaravo, that if “Talk Back Shows on radio and exchange forums on Facebooks are not controlled to defame leaders, he will not hesitate this time to take stronger actions to as far as use all means to close down operations of the radio and social media”.

The Prime Minister “strongly emphasized that the new Media Regulation law must be brought in for ratification in the next session of Parliament”, and that the new law which is in a draft format will be presented to the Council of Ministers for approval after consultations. The letter by the Broadcast Regulator specifically identified that broadcasters, newspapers and the social media will be regulated under this new law.

The letter was addressed to Radio Vanuatu, FM 107, FM 96, Yumi Toktok Stret, the Daily Post, Independent Newspapers, Vila Times and Vanuatu Times.

The caution from the Prime Minister’s office raised a lot of comments and discussions, both local and af-radio-antenna-w-moon-21regionally.

The Daily Post Publisher Marc Neil-Jones reacted with these words, “I’ve dealt with every prime minister since independence and this is the first time anyone has attempted to control independent media through legislation. If that were to happen, the negative publicity for Vanuatu would be catastrophic.”

Furthermore, hundreds of comments have been raised on social media regarding this case. The statement by the Prime Minister came out with a lot of rejections, however some accepted the fact that the media does need to be monitored and used responsibly.

Censorship is not expressly stated to be illegal. Apart from print media, the minister has the discretion to vary conditions and can suspend or revoke broadcasting licenses. In other words, licensing laws effectively allows the government to control the content of broadcasters.

Limited Protection for the Media and Advocators

A recent report on media freedom in the Pacific observed that, in Vanuatu ‘blatant intimidation [of journalists] continues with near impunity’.

In other words, media personals and people advocating through the media become physically vulnerable when reporting on very sensitive issues, some have been attacked and threatened yet justice has failed to serve both parties concerned.

The last few years Vanuatu has witnessed several incidents in the media industry. In 2014, a print journalist was arrested by the Police for ‘threatening’ the government on social media. In 2011, the Daily Post Publisher was assaulted by an MP, and again in 2009, he was severely assaulted by police on press charges of issues within the correctional service. Only one of these unlawful actions has been prosecuted with a VT15, 000 fine.

The list goes on further, from angry phone calls to angry visitations.

Even Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) has earned the badge for hitting the mark, TIV reported four incidents of threats against the staff from 2012 to 2013.

Media Self-Regulatory System for Vanuatu

Can a media self-regulatory system for Vanuatu be the solution to advocating for responsible, accurate, respectful, and factual reporting?

Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) understands that there has been discussions, and consultations last year by the Media Association of Vanuatu (MAV) in establishing a self-regulatory mechanism for the media industry.

TIV believes that a self-regulatory mechanism that allows media to self-regulate itself is way forward to improving the standard of media reporting in Vanuatu. A media regulation law by the government could infringe on the freedom of information, and as can be ‘catastrophic’ as stated by the publisher of the Daily Post.

Media in Vanuatu must be independent to be able to provide constructive criticism. Communication technology in Vanuatu is rising rapidly, therefore access to online discussion forums and mainstream news sites will continue to grow.

Having a mechanism that can allow for an independent platform to exist is crucial for any democracy. It provides a platform for public discussions where anyone can participate and be part of decision. And more importantly, it is a resourceful information hub for decision makers.

Media Association of Vanuatu Press Release

In a press statement released yesterday by the Media Association of Vanuatu (MAV), it says that MAV welcomes Prime Minister Sato Kilman’s call for the media and that civil society’s’ should exercise more responsibility through traditional media, and social media. But at the same time MAV is concerned over the government’s direction towards media and the rights of civilians.

In the statement MAV suggests that…

“the prime minister and his office staff familiarize themselves with the National Media Policy, the National ICT policy and the National FOI policy already in place”.

The MAV statement further emphasized that “because we believe in the Melanesian way of dialogue, we ask the responsible authority to allocate time to meet with MAV’s executive and be briefed on the progress towards the setting up of Vanuatu Media Council that will hopefully deal with complaints raised against the media”.

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Join Transparency International Vanuatu by becoming a member. Download the membership form in the language of your choice below, fill it up and send it to us at P.O Box 355, Port Vila, Vanuatu. 

1. Bislama.

2. English

3. French

Transparency International Vanuatu Welcomes Governments Position

TIV Chairman Dr Willie Tokon

TIV Chairman Dr Willie Tokon

THE RESULT OF last weeks press statement by Transparency International Vanuatu, concerning the needed clarity of where Vanuatu stands on the West Papua issue, saw a response statement released by the Prime Ministers Office over the weekend.

Also during the weekend, according to today’s Daily Post front-page, the “PM insists Indonesia MSG membership is good”, the PM relayed the governments stand on this issue.

In an interview this morning with Radio New Zealand, TIV Chairman Dr. Willie Tokon welcomed Prime Minister Sato Kilman’s clarification of his governments position on West Papua’s recent bid to the MSG.

Click here to read more.

Click here to read “PM insists Indonesia MSG membership is good” from the Daily Post.

TIV Calls On Politicians To Focus On The Economy Not Themselves

A mother who cooks at the Port Vila Market House shares her views on political instability


HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE have lost their jobs since cyclone Pam, thousands of people are still struggling to rebuild their livelihoods but their elected leaders have spent the last few weeks focusing on the political power struggle. This week business and NGO leaders have highlighted the size of the challenge to rebuild Vanuatu’s economy after the cyclone and warned that political instability is undermining those efforts. Representatives from agriculture, tourism and other sectors of the economy spoke about the opportunities and challenges they see for Vanuatu’s economy at a PACMAS journalism workshop, held at the Reserve Bank.

For most, the sudden political changes and instability in Vanuatu continues to place doubts on the prospects of a steady recovery in economic growth. “The first challenge is to stabilize the government to get some VAT into the economy”, said Bryan Death who is the Tourism Councillor on the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce. He said that the focus of the government at this point of time is “to get more tourists into this country, getting some VAT back in the coffers, and getting some money into the government general revenue stream”.

Bryan Death

Bryan Death

With the popular high revenue earning resorts like Irikiki Island Resort and the Holiday Inn probably closed for the next 9 months, there is a lot of work on the government’s plate to think over how to stabilize the fragile economic situation. Mrs Adele Aru from the Tourism Department explained how changes of government make life difficult for civil servants.

 “When there is change in the government, we shift.  We change our perspective, and

Adele Aru

Adele Aru

it makes us lose focus” she said.

She is not the only one describing the situation as – lose focus. Even President Lonsdale referred to loosing focus in his – “The Missing Pages of our History” speech early this month in his opening address of parliament. Unfortunately 3 days after his valuable words rang loud and clear in the chamber the government changed, and then a day later another motion was lodged.

Mr. Francois Kavirere from the Agriculture Department echoed the same sentiment, “our farmers are overtrained,” he said year after year the government through the public service trains the farmers. “But what are we doing from our end to support them?” Mr Kavirere believes we should be able to provide sufficient support to lift their status from being just a regular farmer to a renowned and established business farmer, who can provide more than just a free lunch for their workers. It is time for “no more free lunch” he said.

Francois Kaivirere

Francois Kaivirere

Commissioner of Labour Lionel Kaluat told how labour mobility has offered opportunities and livelihoods to thousands. With Canberra having lifted the cap on the numbers of seasonal workers allowed to travel to Australia each year he said opportunities are growing. But his main focus now is on food security.

The returning seasonal workers from New Zealand and Australia need to get involved in food security he said. “After four to five seasons in the scheme…workers need to move to another level, and that level is entrepreneurship. I want returned workers to re-invest their money, not on iron (cars, buses, trucks etc…). They must invest on their land, transfer the skills that they have learnt on their land. I want the workers when they return to plant food to sustain the future generation because now we are eating only junk food, and it is not giving us a healthy and wealthy educated Vanuatu.”

Labour mobility alone has raised hundreds of livelihood standards since its humble beginnings in 2008. It has also provided an avenue for locally made popular meals like Simporo to be exported to South Australia and Blenheim in New Zealand. This includes local made coconut oil and soap.

Mr Kaluat emphasized the need to focus on progress and not on delays caused by political instability or other problems. He challenged other agencies to keep their focus, “Are we going to work together to make Vanuatu move forward or are we going to work separately in all sorts of directions? We need to collectively come to a clear policy to determine how we can undertake these programs…we are working for one government, we need to have one clear policy that everyone works to achieve our goals, this are some of the challenges…we need to provide hope for Vanuatu”.

In 2008, 556 million vatu poured into Vanuatu, in 2013 that figure increased to over a billion (VT1,251,000,000). Currently, almost 3,500 Ni-Vanuatu workers are in New Zealand while 399 are in Australia, this means that a further 199 million vatu will enter the Vanuatu economy from Australia.

Despite the political turbulences, Mr Lionel is positive with how things will turn out for his sector, “we should be able to sustain our economy if there is a clear direction with political will. So that it can drive our plans to go through”.

Lionel Kaluat

Lionel Kaluat

It is clear that political stability remains primary concern. It does not only scare businesses and investors away, but it slowly drains away citizen’s rights to a better living, better health care, and better education.

The last speaker Anne Pakoa from VEPAC, delivered a powerful statement on educational rights “when we count our children in the census we should also count them in our education”, she reported that in one particular school in Port Vila 84 children between the of 3 and 5 are being taught under one roof, “the teacher of the class told me that at the end of the day when you go home you feel like you will lose your mind…this are the challenges that we are facing until today”.

She further reported on the economical state of a particular teacher who has been paid VT18, 000 for the past 16 years. Even though the Education sector receives a significant amount of the national budget most of it goes towards the salaries of the workers, she said “but today the teachers are still screaming” for their salaries.

Anne Pakoa

Anne Pakoa

Transparency International Vanuatu’s call on our national leaders is simple and clear. Focus on the people and the nation, and put your political differences aside. The ripple effect caused by your sudden changes of political allegiance reaches far.

The livelihood of those affected who depend on steady salaries for daily subsistence is catastrophic. Your job is to fix the situation and not to further it. Look at what the media is saying, hear what the people are saying, do you have time at all to listen carefully? Or are you too busy to concentrate on what really matters – the people’s needs. If you do not have time then make some time.

Put aside your political difference and work to stabilize the economy. Vanuatu is importing more than it exports and watching local manufacturers go out of business.  TC Pam has left an unfortunate economic forecast for Vanuatu for the next several years. Vanuatu needs the AUD$2 million tourism marketing plan devised for its too biggest markets – Australia and New Zealand launched quickly.

The national leaders need to think seriously about how to deal our way out of this grave situation. Transparency International Vanuatu will publish next week the financial costs that occur during changes of governments by no confidence motions since 2002.

The costs are extravagantly high enough to build several schools and at the same time pay for the teachers’ salaries for several years, instead only a tiny powerful percentage of the population benefits from it.

If you are a leader and you are reading this, take time to think on this encouraging leadership quote – ‘a leader is a dealer in hope’ – (Napoleon Bonaparte). So are you a dealer of hope for your people? If not, then be one!

18% Increase In Gratuity Payments Since 2002

SINCE 1980 VANUATU has had more Prime Ministers than the number of general elections, which means each 4 year term that a government has to deliver on its promises is, at times, unfortunately divided up into smaller periods where different coalitions can have their hands on the wheels. But all of that did not come for free, it cost Vanuatu millions of vatu. Clearly, with the current political games again reaching its peeks this is definitely a form of get-rich-quick scheme.

According to the Amendment Act of the Official Salaries of 2006, the Prime Minister, Ministers and their Political Appointees starting from political advisers to drivers are all entitled to gratuity payments when they leave their ministerial positions.

It basically means that at any given time when a new government takes office the outgoing government gets paid. Also, when a Prime Minister reshuffles his cabinet the outgoing Minister and all his political appointees get paid starting from the political advisor right down to the gardener.

How to Calculate a Gratuity Payment

The Official Salaries Act states that ‘gratuity payments are to be paid at the rate of one twelfth of the annual salary for each year, multiplied by two, for each year during which a person holds office’.

Very professional terms used, but it basically explains how to calculate a gratuity payment that probably anyone can do if explained simpler.

The Prime Minister’s Salary stated in the official’s salaries Act is 2,800,000 vatu per year, divide that by 12 (one twelfth) and it will give you 233,333 vatu. Multiply the amount by two (2) and you will get 466,666 vatu. If a MP served for only two years as the Prime Minister, then get that 466,666 vatu and multiply it by that two years to give you an estimate of how much they get as gratuity payment.

Ministers are entitled to an annual salary of 2,400,000 vatu. If there is a reshuffle within the cabinet the amount that the outgoing minister receives will depend entirely on how long he served as a minister – basically, the longer his term the more he gets.  

Increase in Gratuity Payments since 2002

Records of gratuity payments obtained from the Finance and Treasury Department shows that the government’s spending on gratuity payments has consistently increased since 2002.

Year Payment Description Total (VT)
2002 Gratuity 822,994
2003 Gratuity 895,896
2004 Gratuity 4,359,917
2005 Gratuity 7,886,548
2006 Gratuity 3,482,350
2007 Gratuity 9,507,038
2008 Gratuity 2,145,813
2009 Gratuity 834,206
2010 Gratuity 2,209,169
2011 Gratuity 21,405,806
2012 Gratuity 14,207,868
2013 Gratuity 12,386,198
2014 Gratuity 24,042,300

From 2002 to 2014, the Finance Department recorded a total amount of more than 104 million vatu spent on gratuity payments.

It can be noted that in certain years where there has been some changes in the government relating to reshuffles and no confidence motions, gratuity expenditure is higher.

In 2002, the government only spent VT822, 994 on gratuity payments. In 2010, it was VT 2,209, 169. However, in 2012 the figure rose to 14, 207, 868vatu.

Eventually last year’s gratuity payment reached a peak of over 24 million vatu, a significant increase of 18% from 2002.

According to the Official Salaries Act, the positions and their salary scales are as follows:

Ministerial Positions Annual Salary (VT)
Minister 2,400,000
First Political Advisor 1,684,584
Second Political Advisor 1,509,384
Third Political Advisor 1,509,384
2nd Second Political Advisor 1,509,384
2nd Third Political Advisor 1,509,384
Ministers’ Office Supervisors 809,496
Ministers’ Secretary/typists Grade 1 720,000
Ministers’ Secretary/typists Grade 2 590,712
Filing Clerk 590,712
Ministers’ Drivers Grade 1 459,456
Ministers’ Drivers Grade 1 387,240
Messenger 360,000
Receptionist 360,000
Office Gardener 288,000
Minister’s Residence Gardener 438,240
Minister’s Residence Cleaner 387,240

The Office of the Leader of the Opposition:

Position Annual Salary (VT)
Leader of the Opposition 1,369,060
Political Advisor – Office Coordination 1,684,584
Political Advisor – Constituency Liaison 1,509,384
Private Secretary 1,359,984
Office Supervisor 784,656
Secretary Typist 720,000
Typist 599,448
Driver 387,240
Cleaner 387,240

The Speaker of Parliaments’ annual salary is 2,800,000 vatu, the First Deputy Speaker is entitled to 1,369,060 vatu and the Second Deputy Speakers is entitled to an annual salary of 1,012,044 vatu.

Given this figures, the recent massive changes in political positions surely took more than what some of us might think.

TIV attempted to obtain reports of the gratuity expenditure for the recent government’s change on June 2015, but was informed that payments are not yet complete thus an exact amount cannot be released yet.

However, TIV will continue to try to get further descriptions and breakdowns of this gratuity payments, if there is one, to share with the public.

For Whose Benefit?

The hard truth is, since the last general election three years ago, Vanuatu has had four different governments.

The Kilman government took control from 2012 to 2013; Moana Carcasses took over from 2013 to 2014, followed by the Natuman government in 2014 to 2015. And now at present we have the Kilman government again.

Looking back at our political history since 1992, the same names and political figures continue to appear during motions of no confidence.

When will our leaders stop thinking about themselves and start putting more focus to assist those that struggle every day to earn income so they can put food on their table?

Naturally, Vanuatu is already a divided nation separated by over 110 languages and cultures including the vast Pacific Ocean. Amazingly, we have found ways to work together to be united enough to be considered as the happiest place on earth.

If we can unite as a nation, can our national leaders unite as individuals?

If this same scenario continues to be repeated, then the people of Vanuatu need to rethink and be more thorough when election time comes. Otherwise, we may get to the point where the number of prime ministers outnumber Vanuatu’s years as an independent nation.

Already the writings are on the walls, in some public offices the portrait of former prime ministers from several years ago still hang on the wall while the current prime ministers’ portrait is nowhere in sight. And we ask ourselves, is it laziness? No money for framed portraits? Or is it just another way of showing frustration towards political instability, and the fact that funds are being diverted elsewhere from their most needy recipients.

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