He Came Back For Another Mama Law Book

DESPITE CUTTING DOWN on all operations, we still have a few visitors now and then like this fellow from the island of Santo.

His name is Frank Nisa from Kole, East Santo. The last time he was in Port Vila was over five years ago, and that was that he came to the Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) office to get a copy of the Mama Law (National Constitution) book that TIV distributes freely through the communities that we visit.

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Mr. Frank Nisa with his three books.

He returned back home with this Mama Law only to have a relative, who is a politician, want it. So Frank gave away his copy of the Mama Law book.

Five years later and he is now back in Port Vila on family matters, he pops into the TIV IMG_5619office and the first words he says are; “do you still have copies of the Mama Law?”.

Of course we still have some! So we asked to him to sit down and brought three different booklets about Corruption, Right & Duties, and the Mama Law.

We talked a little about the importance of each booklet  and how the Mama law guaranteed our transition from statelessness to becoming a Ni-Vanuatu citizen.

He left the office a very happy man.

HAPPY 37TH FREEDOM ANNIVERSARY PEOPLE OF VANUATU!

 

 

WATCH: RTI Law Community Awareness On Ambae Island – 2:50 Minutes.

TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL VANUATU recently visited the island of Ambae to inform the people there about the National Right To Information Law which which became an official in Vanuatu on 6 February 2017.

In some of the places that we visited the people were part of the consultation process and gratefully acknowledged the opportunity to have been involved in policy making.

This short 2:50 Minutes film briefly summaries a few interviews and shots of the walkabout.

This activity is funded by the Pacific Leadership Program.

WATCH: Short Interviews n RTI Law Community Awareness On Ambae Island

Photos: Right To Information Law Community Awareness –  Malekula Island  

Awareness session at Lakatoro Market House.

A Team from Transparency International Vanuatu was recently on the island of Malekula conducting community awareness’s on the Right To Information Law from the 2nd to the 9th of April 2017.

The trip to the island of Malekula was made possible through funding support from the Pacific Leadership Program (PLP).

These are a few of the photos from that activity. 

Photos taken on a phone camera.

Traveling by boat to inform people from the offshore islands of Malekula.

Mother and her baby at Lakatoro.

Citizens being informed.

Distributing RTI Posters.

Raising the Right To Information message at Lakatoro.

Putting up posters at Potovro, Malekula.

Informing whoever we come across.

Right To Information Law is ‘The Peoples Law’.

The people have the right to know.

Distributing posters and brochures along the roads.

Vendor at Lakatoro Market House getting informed.

Matanvat, North West Malekula

Rensarie College.

Informing students and teachers at Rensarie College.

RTI Law Awareness & Adaptive Leadership Training For Luganville Youth Council

TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL VANUATU’S (TIV) Right To Information Law Community Awareness Program has moved on from Malekula to the island of Santo.

WATCH: Snapshot of Transparency International Vanuatu’s RTI Law Awareness – Malekula Island. 

This week the TIV Awareness Team has collaborated with the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development to deliver Civic Education, Anti-Corruption, and Right To Information Law information to the over 200 youth volunteers who helped out to deliver the National Games in 2016 hosted by Luganville City.

Furthermore, included in this partnership, an Adaptive Leadership Training was conducted for the Luganville Youth Council at the Sarakata Anglican Hall. This leadership empowerment tool was delivered by Wilson Toa of Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) and Nelly Willie of the Pacific Leadership Program (PLP).

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The purpose of the Adaptive Leadership Training for the Chiefs of Vaturisu Chiefs was to:

1. Provide participants with an understanding of Adaptive Leadership as a practice of mobilizing people to tackle difficult situations and thrive.

2. Provide a learning space for reflection and re-strategizing.

3. Adaptive Leadership is a practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive. It is specifically about positive change.

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This ongoing awareness program began on the island of Tongoa early this year and will continue until the end of April.

These Right To Information Law Community Awareness Sessions were made possible through funding support from the Pacific Leadership Program based in Fiji.

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION LAW

WATCH: Interview: Deputy Principal of Rensarie College – Malekula Island 

TIV Advocates In North West Malekula Schools 

Transparency International Vanuatu continues to inform schools on the island of Malekula about the Right To Information (RTI) Law.

Today the Transparency International Vanuatu Team continued its awareness program to north west Malekula and visited Unmet College and Brenwei Junior Secondary School.

These were the schools, in the north west area, that took part in the consultation process in 2016 including Unmet community. 

TIV Advocacy Officer Douglas Tamara Informs students.

Many students will wonder “but how will the RTI Law benefit us?”

The Right To Information Law is able to assist students who are doing their research. Because whatever age category you are you have the right to access accurate information. It will largely help students educational development.

Furthermore, the RTI Law is established to “promote transparency, accountability and national development by empowering and educating the public to understand and act upon their right to information and to increase public participation in governance.”

Unmet College, North West Malekula

Brenwei Junior Secondary School

Overall, this is a law that will fight corruption for the people. This is the ‘The Peoples Law’, and they deserve to know about it. This Transparency International Vanuatu’s current mission – Anywhere. Anytime. We Will Inform The People.

Voters Raise Voices OverLong Distance To Polling Station

ON THURSDAY THE 23rd of March voters from the Vanuatu provinces of MALAMPA, PENAMA, SHEFA and TAFEA took to the polling stations to cast their votes.

On that day a Transparency International Vanuatu Team was traveling around the island of Tanna conducting community awareness’s on the Right To Information Law.

Some of the voters that were spoken to described the distances that they had to walk to vote as “tiring, but it is our duty to elect our leaders.”

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One voter from the Polling Station of Launalang Primary School in North Tanna explained that the long distances was just one little part of the hard work they do every time there is an election, “we wake up early in the morning, around two or three o’clock, and begin our journey to the polling station. We walk for around three to four hours to reach our destination.”

“When both parents come to vote they also have to bring all their children, including the elderly. This means that they have to cook their lunch very early in the morning so that they can eat together under a shade somewhere near the polling station.”

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“After lunch they do not go home yet. They want to hear the Unofficial Results, so they have to wait till the polling station closes its door at around four or five in the evening, and then around six the Unofficial Results will come out. And by the time they get home, which would take again another three hours, it would be around nine or ten o’clock at night.”

Voters who walk long distances claim that they have the capacity and resources to conduct electoral voting processes at their own villages, “we can operate our own polling stations that is nearer to those of us that are living in the remote areas if the authorities approve of it, we have the capacity and the resources,” said a voter from North Tanna.

The elections on Tanna run smoothly with no major disturbances.

Below are a few photos of that day.

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MOU Signing Paves Way For Proper Management Of Records And Information

A MILESTONE MEMORANDUM of Understanding (MOU) signed yesterday (Tuesday 06 Dec 2016) ) between the Director of the Department of Strategic Planning, Policy and Aid Coordination (DSPPAC) Gregoire Nimbtik, and the Director for Vanuatu Kaljurol Senta (VKS), Asal Lazare, now paves way for the establishment of mechanisms for proper records and information management under the Right To Information At.

The RTI Act was unanimously passed by parliament on 24 November 2016.

Speaking after the signing, DSPPAC Director Nimbtik said the MOU is very crucial to the pro-active and publication scheme under the implementation plan of the Right To Information policy and RTI Act.

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Mr. Gregoire Nimbtik (right) the  Director of DSPPAC formalising MOU with Mr Asal Lazare the Director of VKS.

Mr Nimbtik said under the MOU, the National Archives will take the lead in establishing National Records and Information Development Committee to reinforce best practice of records management and establish standards and guidelines as required by the RTI Act.

“Implementation of the RTI law will not succeed without good record keeping”, he said.

The RTI Unit under DSPPAC will work closely with VKS and the National Archives to set up respective committees under its strategic plan.

In response, VKS Director Lazare assured everyone of his agencies commitment to fulfilling the records management requirements under the RTI implemention plan.

“This signing is a historic milestone in cooperation between VKS and the Prime Minister’s Office. In the past we have been operating independently from other government departments, but that this MOU marks the beginning of closer working relationship with other agencies as we embark on the RTI implementation plan”, he said.

Mr Lazare said the MOU will also foster a recent structural change in his agency that saw the stream lining of sections from 11 down to 3, which are the Public Records and Archives, Production and the National Heritage, and the Research sections.

He believes the implementation process undertaken under the MOU will also assist in the functioning of his new structure.

The National Archives under the VKS has been working diligently in the past years to assist government agencies with records management training awareness and is committed to carrying out its strategic plans.

Source: Media Release from DSPPAC

Offshore RTI Consultations Completed, Erromango Next

THE ONGOING NATION-WIDE community consultations by Transparency Vanuatu (TV) on the Right To Information (RTI) Bill completed its eleventh campaign throughout the Efate offshore islands and has moved on to the island of Erromango.

It took more than a week to inform the people of the islands of Emau, Lelepa, Moso, Pele, 2and Nguna. The islands of Pele, Lelepa and Moso took a day each to complete while the island of Nguna took three days.

The consultation throughout the islands has been successful. On the island of Pele, for example, seventy five percent (75%) of the population were informed of the RTI Bill. Similarly, on the island of Nguna sixty four percent (64%) of the population were informed of the RTI Bill. A hundred percent (100%) of the people want their Members of Parliament to support the Bill when they were asked if their MP should vote for the RTI Bill or not.

Statistically, this means that more than half of the people from the Efate offshore islands are now aware of the RTI Bill and how the Bill will impact society when it becomes law.

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“Many of us want accurate information, but a lot of time we get information from radio-coconut which makes our decision inaccurate. I belief that this (RTI) Bill will help a lot of people,” said the Atavi (the name represents a chiefly rank) of Piliura village, Pele Island.

The Transparency Vanuatu team that is conducting the consultations have moved on, since Tuesday the 1st of November, to the island of Erromango where the consultations were completed on the 8th of November, 2016.

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On the island of Erromango the team started the campaign at Dillon’s Bay, then to Ipota, before moving out to the other regions on the island. (More reports on this campaign will be published)

Transparency Vanuatu has been involved in a year-long consultation program that aims to inform the people of Vanuatu about the Right To Information (RTI) Bill.

As the campaign moves forward more and more people are now aware of the RTI Bill, and 7more and more people are showing their support by asking their MPs to vote for the RTI Bill when it is tabled in Parliament.

This RTI campaign tours are funded by the Pacific Leadership Program (PLP), based in Fiji, who supports Transparency Vanuatu’s work with the Government’s Right to Information (RTI) Unit to raise awareness and promote public interest in the RTI Policy and Bill.

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PLP’s support has enabled Transparency Vanuatu to campaign in communities and schools and host public forums on the RTI Policy and Bill, using its strong networks in the provinces.

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National Expenditures Needs Tightening Before Income Tax

THE GOVERNMENT MUST tighten up more of public sector expenditures before we can begin to think of introducing Income Taxing in Vanuatu.

As the consultation process continues on this bold government initiative that has got a lot of heads turning we think it is our duty to put something forth on what we think are some necessary steps to take before this ideas becomes a part of Vanuatu’s legal framework.

First of all, if the income tax is going to become a reality then the government, especially the public service sector, needs to effectively manage its collections and spending’s otherwise corruption, or lack of proper management, will reduce the peoples trust in the system.

According to the estimates provided by the Revenue Review Team who are doing the consultation, if the income tax was introduced a huge surplus of revenue will be added into the national treasury.

This will, of course, add surplus to the national budget. But how well will the surplus be managed? That is the challenge that needs to be solved. Because, if we have two to three billion more extra cash then there needs to be a transparent and better management system in place so that people can trust and know that their monies are spend the promised way.

It is of deep concern that tax money, because it is in the billions, could be siphoned away in small amounts into someone’s pocket, or towards unnecessary spending’s.

The administration of the tax system should be fully equipped to fight corruption because such systems are vulnerable. For instance, just this month in Sierra Leone, West Africa, an assessment was made on their tax system by the Budget Advocacy Network (BAN) “with a view to highlight key areas of concerns, reform and opportunities to light the darkened shadows that clouded tax regime in Sierra Leone.”

The BAN is a united front of several NGO’s including Transparency International Sierra Leone (TISL) and its purpose is to ensure “a greater inclusiveness in the budget process, increase access to information and improved responsiveness geared towards achieving gender sensitive and poor budget and programs”.

And in light of this ‘darkened shadows’, this is what their Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission said; “The absence of a fair and equitable tax system breeds corruption…tax management is an attractive sector for corruption to take place as the opportunities and incentives to engage in illicit activities are abundant”.

Moreover, in 2014 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) collaborated with other organizations to address tax administration through an initiative called the Tax Administration Diagnostic Assessment Tool (TADAT) because tax collection “is a central function of government, and weak tax administration can compromise development, growth, and trust in government. Like all government agencies, tax administration face strong public demands for efficient service delivery, operational accountability, and transparency”.

Convincingly, if the tax income is implemented then the administration of those taxes should be corruption-proof.

Furthermore, there are several things that are on the list that needs to be tightened, and one of them is the effectiveness of internal control for non-salary expenditure of which the Vanuatu Public Financial Management Performance (VPFMP) Reports of 2009 and 2013 simultaneously rated a ‘C+’.

In 2014 an economics expert from the University of the South Pacific estimated that approximately over 50 million of unbudgeted vatu are spend on fuel, maintenance, and the purchase of G-vehicles annually.

In that same year, about three months after the 50 million vatu estimation by the economics expert, the Ministry of Finance recorded an increase of expenditure “due to the intrusion of unbudgeted items during the beginning of this year” – Vehicle-replacement cost VT 21.7 million (or 185 per cent) more than what was budgeted for at VT 11.7million, according to the 2014 Half Year Report.

CLICK HERE to visit the Vanuatu Ministry of Finance website.

Strategically, was the unbudgeted VT 10 million spend on the vehicles constructive? Or should that money been used to pay hundreds of students school fees?

The government needs to show more commitment if it wants to tax working citizens by effectively controlling its expenditures, especially those that are not budgeted for. This also means that it is important to avoid political gratuity payments, which according to a Transparency Vanuatu report in 2015, increased by a staggering 18% since 2002.

Furthermore, the VPFMP Report identified that “increased payroll costs and unbudgeted expenditure have raised expenditure levels. In 2009 and 2010, actual revenues were also significantly less than anticipated due to a combination of ambitious forecasts, changes in trade agreements and weak enforcement”.

But it must also be noted that those were reports that reflected the works of previous government, and must not reflect the current government. However, according to national financial information gathered for the 2016 half year report several services have already exceeded their budget limits by a high thousand percent.

The big question to ask ourselves is; if we are trying to raise revenue to upgrade public services and to pay off loans then why are we spending more than what we budgeted?

According to information from the Ministry of Finance the government of Vanuatu has actually spent over VT190 million vatu of unbudgeted funds in the first half of this year on additional vehicles, vehicle hire, acting allowances, court costs, official entertainments and several more.

To conclude, there are mechanisms that needs to be tightened up and unnecessary spending must be stopped because these are the monies that should be used to increase access to areas like the education, communications, health and other services.

It is also important to be mindful of corruption in this sector. In a Working Paper (Tax System: A Channel for Corruption – Or a Way to Fight It?) published by Transparency International in 2015 several main entry points for corruption in taxation were pointed out;

Reporting taxes: This can happen with or without the involvement of tax collectors and through the use of incentives and resources to exert influence (legal and illegal) to allow for inaccurate reporting (e.g. of company turnover and/or expenditures and/or individual earnings).

Collusion: Tax officials take advantage of their authority to issue tax exemptions or levy lower tax rates for individuals or companies, creating a context of policy capture.

Patronage: Ties of community or kinship may favour or penalise certain constituencies, such as by lifting certain exemptions, imposing additional levies, or unevenly enforcing tax compliance.

International tax fraud and evasion schemes: Opaque global financial systems exacerbate the problem through legal and illegal channels and often use tax havens as part of the process. Weak legislation, legal loopholes and the breaking of laws often permit companies not to pay taxes where the profits are made, and instead shift these monies to other jurisdictions with lower tax rates. As the World Bank President recently stated, such company actions are a form of corruption.

All of these issues can be classified, either directly or indirectly, as forms of tax evasion.

Overall, Transparency Vanuatu recommends that existing policies need to be tightened to protect national revenue and enforce better management of public assets because they cost a lot of money. And if we are to pay taxes we would want to know that our monies will be put into raising the quality of life in Vanuatu and not to pay off unnecessary subjects, and for this to happen the government has the important task of convincing the people to trust that this proposed system will work.

Lastly, Transparency Vanuatu wishes to commend on the string of public consultations that has been undertaken by the Revenue Review Project Team, it is a challenging task, it consumes energy and time, but it must be done. Everything that will go through parliament must go through a participatory consultation process so that everyone is aware of, and participates, in shaping Vanuatu’s future.