Public Report on ex gratia Payments to 23 Members of Parliament - December 18, 1997 - Emalus Campus
As a result of resignations and boycotting of Parliament in 1998, 23 members of Parliament lost their seats. The Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal both ruled that these members lost their seats.
On September 14, 1993, the Council of Ministers decided that each of the 23 MPís be paid an ex-gratia payment of 1.5 million vatu. This decision was against the advice of the Solicitor General. It was also illegal as expenditures of this nature are matters which are for decision by Parliament. Several of the Ministers who voted in favour of the payments were among the 23 MPís and therefore placed themselves in a conflict of interest. They did not declare their conflict of interest. No money had been budgeted for the payment of money, which totaled over 34 million vatu.
The Minister of Finance, Mr. Willie Jimmy, one of the beneficiaries of the scheme, sought payment of his money on an urgent basis and was paid out of a contingency fund which was intended for use in unforeseen emergencies only. The Acting Minister of Finance, Mr. Paul Telukluk authorized his own payment on his first day in office. Ministerial pressure was placed on the Finance department for payment to the remaining MPís. The Director of Finance, Mr. Lewis made payments without the proper documentation for use of the contingency fund.
It was found that the Members of the Council of Ministers who voted in favour of the ex gratia had breached the Leadership Code in failing to follow the legal advice of the Solicitor General in respect of the payments. The Financial Regulations were also breached in several respects in relation to the manner of payments and the funds from which payments were made.
That the ex gratia payments be returned to the Government.
That the Minister of Finance, Willie Jimmy resign or be dismissed from the Council of Ministers and not re-appointed to a ministerial post.
That Maxine Carlot Korman not be considered for Ministerial post or other position involving public money.
That Paul Telukluk not Act as Minister of Finance again.
That the Public Finance Act be amended to take away from the Council of Ministers the power to spend money beyond that budgeted and give that power to Parliament
That Parliament table the Leadership Code Bill for debate.
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