Public Report on the payment of “compensation” to Hon. Maxime Carlot Korman, Hon. Willie Jimmy and Hon Barak Sope in breach of the Leadership Code and the Compensation Act 1994 – July 3, 1997 - Emalus Campus
At all relevant times Hon. Maxime Carlot Korman was Prime Minister, Hon. Willie Jimmy was Finance Minister and Hon Barak Sope was Deputy Prime Minister. They were among a number of persons who benefited from the Compensation Act. The Ombudsman inquired into the propriety of their involvement and of the benefits they received.
The Compensation Act was intended to provide a means of compensating persons who had been involved in various ways with certain civil and political events of 1980 and 1988 in Vanuatu. Among those who could apply to a Compensation Board were:
· persons who had been injured
· representatives of persons who had lost their life
· persons unfairly imprisoned without a court order
The Act provided a small “window” of only 44 days after the passing of the Act for claims to be made. The Act came into force on October 17, 1994.
The investigation revealed that the involvement of the three politicians named was improper in a number of respects. First, they were personally involved in the drafting of the Act and the process of having it approved by the Council of Ministers and passed by Parliament. Although they intended to benefit from the legislation and therefore were in a position of conflict of interest, they were fully involved; voting on the bill and appointing persons to the Compensation Board.
Further, the applications made by the three named politicians were not approved by the Compensation Board but by the Council of Ministers. This was done two months before the Compensation Act came into force and was contrary to specific advice from the Attorney General and the Acting Minister of Finance.
Further, the basis of the applications from all three politicians failed to come within the scope of the Act as, although they had been imprisoned as a result of the events of 1988, all were imprisoned pursuant to a Supreme Court Order. Their entitlement to compensation therefore failed under the Act.
The amount of compensation paid to each of the three politicians was 5 million vatu, more than that received by any other applicant and five times the amount received by the family of a person who had been killed.
The report concludes that the three politicians had breached the Leadership Code.
The report also notes that fees for lawyers acting on behalf of a political party and on behalf of Ifira Trust were also paid from Compensation Act funds although these payments did not fall within the scope of the Act.
· That the money paid to Messrs. Korman, Jimmy and Sope be repaid to the Government.
· That Hon Willie Jimmy resign or be dismissed from the Council of Ministers and not re-appointed to any position involving public money.
· That Hon. Maxime Carlot Korman not be considered for Ministerial post or other position involving public money.
· That, although his involvement was not as serious as the other two, recommendations made in previous reports concerning Hon. Barak Sope continue to stand with the effect that he be excluded from any position of public responsibility in the future.
· That the Council of Ministers follow the law and the advice of the Attorney General.
· That the Leadership Code Bill be passed and voted on as a conscience vote.
(Note: On March 11, 1997, the Ombudsman published a short additional report on this matter in response to a reply by Mr. Korman. The additional report refutes several points raised by Mr. Korman but adds nothing significant to the original report.)
Written by Edward R. Hill
UNDP Governance and Accountability Project
© Ombudsman of Vanuatu
Published here by University of the South Pacific, School of Law Web Site - www.vanuatu.usp.ac.fj