Public servants debts to Govt over Vt 200 million; Former NISCOL executives to face court

The Finance Ministry has told VBTC that there are outstanding public servants’ debts to government amounting to Vt 200 million. This was revealed to VBTC by Finance DG Letlet August, reinstated to his post by court order as mentioned in the news yesterday and awaiting a further court decision. The debts are mostly Read the rest of this entry »


Vanuatu daily news digest | 7 February 2013

Corruption in the Department of Lands was the subject of a story last night on Radio Vanuatu News. The item says the level of corruption facilitated under the Kilman Government has has been exposed—in a Government report. Translated from the Bislama radio item:

A report about serious allegations which have taken place in the Department of Lands will go to the Council of Ministers for consideration. The Government spokesman, Jeff Patunvanu, says the report follows an investigation which took place in the Department last year. The report carries allegations of illegal sales of land and illegal dealings in land. Names of officers of the Lands Department are included in the report. Also there are names of companies, individuals and land owners who have lost their land. Patunvanu says the Government will deal with the report seriously and according to the law.

By not sending the report to the police when it was written—last year—and by not immediately suspending or prosecuting the officers implicated, the Government compounds the illegality. This may well unleash the wrath of landowners who have been cruelly abused in this way. They were already extremely angry at the National Land Summit back in 2006. This blog is committed to upholding the land laws of Vanuatu—it started out for that very reason. We insist that the Department of Lands report is handed immediately to both the Vanuatu Police and the Public Service Commission. Other media should also investigate more deeply.

No damage from yesterday’s Solomon Islands tsunami in Vanuatu. Yesterday’s tsunami, generated following a magnitude 8.0 earthquake in the Santa Cruz islands to the north of Vanuatu, resulted in wave heights of 26cm in Luganville and 11cm in Port Vila. No damage or casualties have been reported so far, but Port Vila resident Kava Doc posted this photo sequence below on Facebook, showing just how quickly even a small tsunami can inundate coastal land.

An 11cm tsunami wave comes ashore in Port Vila harbour. Images sourced from Kava Doc.

An 11cm tsunami wave comes ashore in Port Vila, 7 February 2013. Photos by Kava Doc.

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Vanuatu daily news digest | 3 January 2013

Happy new year to all of our readers! We are back online after a brief intermission.

Today’s Daily Post  shows that the provisions of the Vanuatu Maritime Act may prove costly to new citizen Vu Anh Quan Saken, alleged owner of the yacht Phocea. The vessel has been detained for several months awaiting legal papers to prove its ownership. So far, investigators have only been presented with forged papers. Using false documentation is an international crime under the Port State Control (PSC) maritime agreement to which Vanuatu is a signatory, the Tokyo MoU. The Prime Minister has attempted to have the vessel released, as did the late Minister Harry Iauko. But Ports and Harbour Dept personnel are determined that the matter be dealt with legally,as their international reputations are on the line.

The Opposition is taking Prime Minister Sato Kilman to task over his intention to release the Phocea. Under the PSC MoU to which Vanuatu is a signatory, only the licensing officers of the Ports and Harbour Department are entitled to do this. The Opposition has issued a press release noting that the PM has stated that matters of law and order are to be dealt with by the appropriate authorities, but the Opposition accuses Kilman of hypocrisy, as he has taken the Phocea case out of the hands of the legal authorities. The Opposition asks in whose interests is the PM is acting, Daily Post reports.

Tony Nari is the new Minister for Infrastructure and Public Utilities. Nari, elected to Parliament in October last year under the banner of the Iauko Group, is also now the Iauko bloc’s leader following the death of Harry Iauko.

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Vanuatu daily news digest | 21 December 2012

Total chaos rules at the Ministry of Health. Minister of Health Don Ken has suspended his new Director General of Health Howard Aru, replacing him with Dr Graham Patas, who was terminated last Tuesday for incompetence and is also likely to face criminal charges over death threats he made to Health Department staff, including to former Vila Central Hospital administrator Dr Willie Tokon. These moves follow the dubious recruitment practices of former DG Maturine Carlot Tary and her gift of a VT 3 million ‘Workforce Development Consultancy’ contract to former political adviser, Joemelson Arnambath. Insiders say the Minister wanted Aru out for a number of reasons, however Minister Ken’s actions are in total breach of Public Service laws, irrespective of directors-general contracts having recently become political appointments.

The situation is truly alarming when there are significant health problems in Vanuatu. For example, diarrhoea has become widespread amongst children. The public demands better health care, without political interference and cronyism. Our health is far more important than your petty politics. The full story is covered in today’s Daily Post. Radio Vanuatu was yesterday told by the First PA in the Ministry, Ishmael Williams, that only the Minister could explain Aru’s suspension, yet the Minister failed to oblige at all yesterday. The Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Holi Simon, for his part, said he had not been officially informed of Aru’s suspension, and that under the new DG contracts, only the Prime Minister has the right to recruit and deal with any DG employment matters.

While on health matters, we note that Port Vila Municipal Council has not collected rubbish in a number of weeks. The central business district stinks of rotting waste, especially at the Central Market, where most Vila residents purchase their produce. With the current warm, humid weather and a more than usual numbers of people in the area for Christmas shopping, all of the ingredients for a serious disease outbreak. This appalling lack of public sanitation may already be responsible for the outbreak of diarhoea in children. This is of course entirely preventable, if the PVMC and Shefa Province market management could just manage to get off their backsides and do their job.

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Vanuatu daily news digest | 26 November 2012

Radio Vanuatu News alarms us this morning with the news that the Director of Public Health, Dr Len Tarivonda, is presently suspended. Other senior health personnel have been terminated. Dr Tarivonda confirmed to Radio Vanuatu that he had received his letter of suspension from the outgoing DG of Health, Maturine Carlot Tary, on Friday last week. He said his suspension letter had outlined some allegations against him and he is seeking advice from the Public Service Commission and also legal advice. He said the DG of Health had recently made various personnel changes in the Ministry, leading to senior health personnel being terminated, or transferred. The Directors of Northern Health Care and Southern Health Care have been terminated or suspended. The Superintendent of Vila Central Hospital, Dr Willie Tokon, has been terminated. And the manager of Vila Central Hospital, Leipakoa Matiriki, has been redeployed to a health centre. Is this the result of politicising the roles of Directors General? The new DG of Health has yet to be announced, but has the outgoing DG been acting politically to improve her chances of being accepted for the position?

Daily Post further adds to the news of Dr Len Tarivonda’s suspension by saying that there has been an ongoing row between the Ministry’s principal aid donor, the Australian Government, and the Ministry of Health over bailout funds. The Australian Government has refused to give more cash over its huge annual assistance of VT 286 million. Daily Post says with the departure of senior personnel, “the department is is understood to be in the hands of one or two elements with strong political connections to the Public Service Commission and the Prime Minister’s Office.” Radio Vanuatu News said morale was very low. We have previously become outraged at political instability. Political interference is now raising an even uglier head.

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All Director General posts to be vacated by November as Kilman Govt makes DGs political appointees

Prime Minister Sato Kilman is advising all Directors General that their positions end in November. This follows legislation passed by the last Parliament and now gazetted. The DG job descriptions are being advertised and applications are required by 1 October. This suggests the outgoing Government intends to have new appointments finalised before the election campaign begins. The new amendments are “designed to improve performance”, says the PM.

In actuality, the amendments remove public oversight from these important and powerful positions, and make them political appointments. Salaries are decided by the Government of the day, not by the Public Service Commission’s salary scale for Government employees. We all know where this will lead – more corruption, more greed, more incompetent, unqualified cronies appointed, less transparency and of course greater power for Kilman and his associates. The net result for the people of Vanuatu? A public service unable to operate because of political interference, a reduction in the ability of Government to provide services to the population, and (yet another) stain on Vanuatu’s international reputation under Sato Kilman.

Vanuatu lost over Vt 100,000,000 on the Café du Village lease sale. The actual market value of the lease according to real estate agents is likely to be somewhere between Vt 100 million and Vt 150 million. Read the rest of this entry »