Report on the illegal creation of CVDC Holdings SA and the People of Vanuatu Trust and breach of the Leadership Code by Hon. Vincent Boulekone, Minister of Finance – March 24, 1998 - Emalus Campus
This report is primarily concerned with the behavior of a Government minister who proceeded with a transaction, after having been advised by the Attorney General that the transaction was illegal. The report does not identify or assess the motives behind the transaction.
During 1997, the Council of Ministers approved an action whereby the Government interest in 17 companies including Air Vanuatu (Operations) Limited, the National Bank of Vanuatu and Telecom Vanuatu Limited was to be transferred to CVDC Holdings SA (CVDC), an entity thought to be incorporated in Mauritius. After this decision, Parliament was dissolved by the President. Mr. Vincent Boulekone continued to act as Finance Minister pending a decision by the Supreme Court as to whether dissolution of Parliament was legal.
On December 23, 1997, Mr. Boulekone purported to effect the transfer of Government assets by means of a “Ministerial Order” The order was published in the Vanuatu Weekly, a Government owned newspaper. On January 9, 1998, the Attorney General, advised Mr. Boulekone that the order was unlawful. Mr. Boulekone disregarded this advice. He then went on national radio in the week of February 14, 1998 to publicize the transaction. He also publicized the transaction by means of a large article in the Vanuatu Weekly on February 21, 1998.
In addition to being contrary to the advice of the Attorney General, the Ombudsman observed that the order did not comply with the Government’s own procedure requiring that the Attorney General initial any order before it is signed by a Minister. Further the provisions of the Company Act regarding the transfer of shares was not followed. The Ombudsman’s report contains the lengthy reply of Mr. Boulekone (to the Ombudsman’s draft report). The issues of the rule of law, the limits of ministerial power and the role of the Attorney General are discussed.
The Minister, in conducting himself in a manner inconsistent with the advice of the Attorney General breached the Leadership Code in that he was grossly irresponsible and “made a mockery of his office as Minister.” He was also in breach of the Leadership Code by wording the order in a manner that gave the impression that the Attorney General had approved the order, thereby negatively affecting the credibility of the Attorney General.
· That the Minister of Finance (in the new Government) revoke the order of Mr. Boulekone.
· That Mr. Boulekone not be re-appointed to a ministerial post or to any position where public assets or money is at stake.
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