MPs Must Practice Constituency Consultation

“THIS IS THE FIRST TIME that a team has come to inform us, and consult with us, on new laws that are to go to parliament,” confessed a chief who looks after the community of Vureas Bay on Vanua Lava. His revelation brings to light an important question; are your MP’s consulting with you before and after they had participated at a parliamentary sitting? What are the roles of our MP’s?

Unfortunately, there is no specific law in Vanuatu that clearly illustrates the role of an MP. However, there are guided procedures and codes of conducts that provide a guide to what the role of an MP should, and must be.

Read below what the Parliament of Vanuatu has to say about the role of a Member of Parliament; (All details are outlined in the Parliament website)

“What Members of Parliament do? Most Members can thus be viewed as having three roles that of parliamentarian, constituency representative, and party member.”

Furthermore, when “Parliament is sitting (meeting), MPs generally spend their time working in the Parliament. This can include raising issues affecting their constituents, attending debates and voting on new laws.”

“Most MPs are also members of committees, which look at issues in detail, from government policy and new laws, to wider topics like human rights.”

The Parliament website continues to explain that when working in their constituency “Members (MP) provide a direct link between their constituents and the Parliament. In their constituency, MPs often visit their people, where local people can come along to discuss any matters that concern them.”

Again, the Parliament states exactly and clearly what citizens should discuss with their MPs, the people can discuss ‘any matters that concern them’ including laws, community projects, social conflicts, economical activities, opinions, and the list goes on.

Therefore, if your MP visits you to consult, and to gather your opinion, on new laws that are to be discussed in parliament then that is a great job well done, but if your MP is not visiting you to talk about new laws and other matters then you, the voter, must demand it from your MP otherwise you are missing out on an important democratic process.

Reportedly, according to information received from the Parliament the national consultation process could soon be made much easier owing to the rapid advances in Vanuatu’s telecommunication industry. This development would see to it that the Bills listed for debate would be digitally send directly to the MP’s computer, phone, or tablet. This will make it easier for the MP to distribute the Bill to his constituents easier and faster as well as receive the people’s opinion through the same manner.

The Parliament also states that “MPs also attend functions, visit schools and communities and generally try to meet as many people as possible. This gives MPs further insight and context into issues they may discuss when they return to Parliament.”

This information is very important, it explains that MPs must try to meet as many people as possible during their term if office. They are Representatives who must debate and discuss in the interest of those that they represent.

“It is the constituents who pass judgment on the performance of Members of Parliament at each election. Members must prove themselves fit for the task of being their parliamentary representative. All Members who wish to make a long-term commitment to improving the governance of Vanuatu need to be dedicated to serving the interests of their electorates and proving themselves worthy of re-election.”

The Parliament of Vanuatu also provides to each MP a copy of the Vanuatu Parliamentary Handbook. The Handbook outlines the role of a MP among other functions.

The Handbook is a resourceful guide to how things are run in the Parliament. A statement from the Parliament Handbooks explains that the Handbook “is designed to introduce new Parliamentarians, and people planning to be candidates for election to Parliament, to the most fundamental aspects of the job”.

Throughout the awareness tours that were conducted by Transparency International Vanuatu one thing was certain during the discussion of laws and national development; the people want their MPs to do more than just an occasional visit, they want explanation on laws, they need to know how they are governed, and how new laws will affect them.

A Statesman from the Philippines once commented on changes in politics and the need for proper consultation with the people, he said that “our political system needs changing. It needs to move away from personalities and patronage to a system of party programs and consultation with the people.”

Simply, if a single MP cannot do it by himself, then the party that he is affiliated with has to support him to implement a constituency consultation program.

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Brief Observation Of The Snap Election

TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL VANUATU published this morning a brief observation report on the Vanuatu 2016 Snap Election.

WHAT IS INSIDE THE REPORT?

There are four parts in this brief observation report:

  1. Allegations of corruption.
  2. Comparison of Candidate numbers by Provinces.
  3. Discrepancies in valid voter numbers.
  4. Recommendations.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE REPORT.

 

 

TIV Appeals To The Government To Strengthen Public Accounts Committee

TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL VANUATU (TIV) is appealing to the authorities responsible in the government to strengthen the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Since June of this year the Public Accounts Committee has been unable to perform its functions because the government has not appointed its members despite receiving two notices from the Standing Committees Secretary.

“We see that the government has taken steps by improving transparency and accountability, and this is shown through the incredible work that is being done to making it legally easier for citizen’s to access information through the right to information policy (RTI) and the legislation which are still in draft” acknowledged Dr. Tokon, the Chairman of Transparency International Vanuatu.

TIV Chairman Dr Willie Tokon.

TIV Chairman Dr Willie Tokon.

However, with regards to the Public Accounts Committee, Transparency International Vanuatu followed closely the workings of the PAC between April and May, and it was expected that further PAC hearings would be held after July.

“Currently, the PAC has not been operational since June then it will of course raise a lot of questions regarding government spending’s,” Dr. Tokon further stated that “We would like to appeal to the government to empower the PAC so that it can be able to continue to perform its duties.”

“The significance of having, at all times, an operational Public Accounts Committee is because it is the only constituted parliamentary committee that is responsible for overseeing government expenditures to ensure they are effective and honest” TIV Chairman Dr. Willie Tokon said.

The significance of having a functional instrument in place was highlighted when the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) summoned the thirty-plus government statutory bodies in April of this year and it was discovered that 50% of them were operating without a qualified accountant. Furthermore, the PAC also identified that the leaders of 71% statutory bodies were not aware of their own acts while a staggering 83% admitted that they were not aware of the Expenditure Review & Audit Act.

Below are the findings by the PAC in April:

  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.

The PAC, at that time, was praised for revealing to the public major operational failures by the statutory bodies, confirming the fact that the PAC has a very important role to play where public funds are concerned. “Therefore, the government needs to empower and promote the work of the PAC,” Dr. Tokon said.

In April the PAC agreed on 10 recommendations to be delivered to the government as advice:

  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.

MP Ralph Regenvanu is currently the new PAC Chairman, taking over from MP Marcelino Pipite who was elected as the Speaker of Parliament.