Public report on the granting of leases by the former Minister of Lands Mr. Paul Barthelemy Telukluk to himself, family members and wantoks - April 22, 1999 - Emalus Campus
The report results from an investigation into the granting of leases by the former Minister of Lands, Paul Telukluk and the question of his conduct in relation to the leases.
Mr. Telukluk was Minister of Lands between 1992 and February 20, 1996. As Minister, he had power to sign leases of land under the control of the Government on behalf of the Government and to determine the premium charged for Government leases. Leases require the payment by the lessor of an initial premium and the subsequent annual payment of a leasing fee. In 15 cases, the Minister used his power to grant leases in favour of himself, his wife, sons, niece and nephew, his driver, his house-girl and other wantoks.
The laws and procedures for granting land leases require that certain procedures be followed. These include:
∑ Obtaining application to lease
∑ Paying fee in relation to application to lease
∑ Obtaining approval of the lease by either the Urban Land Lease Selection Committee (ULLSC) or Rural Land Lease Selection Committee (RLLSC) and having the recommendation conveyed to the Minister
∑ Obtaining negotiatorís certificate
∑ Preparation of a survey plan
∑ Securing a valuation of the land in question
∑ Preparation and execution of lease
No application was submitted and no fee paid in relation to any of the leases in question. No recommendation from either the ULLSC or RLLSC was made in favour of any of the leases. No valuation was obtained in respect of any of the leases.
The Minister awarded 5 leases to himself. No premium was paid for 4 of these leases. The premium on the fifth was approximately half of the market value obtained by averaging two independent appraisals obtained by the Ombudsman.
In respect of leases to relatives and wantoks, all the premiums were significantly less than the market value. Some of the premiums were only partly paid in any event. Unexplained changes were made to documents in the Land Office that created the impression that premiums had been fully paid when in fact they were not. In one case Land Office documents were inexplicably missing. In at least one case the lessee never applied for the lease in question.
The investigation concluded that in total, the 15 leases deprived the people of Vanuatu of over 22,000,000 vatu in revenue and directly enriched the Minister by more than 11,000,000 vatu.
The investigation revealed that the granting of leases by the Minister to himself, family and wantoks was unjust and that it breached section 5 of the Constitution which gives all persons entitlement to equal treatment under the law. It was found that the Minister breached every provision of the Leadership Code (conflict of interest, unfair exercise of official duties, demeaning position, lack of integrity and use of office for personal gain). The Minister misappropriated 4 lease titles by granting them to himself at no charge and in contravention of proper procedures.
The investigation also concluded that the administrative law and practice relating to Government leases is defective in that there is no mechanism to ensure fairness.
Some of the leases were granted despite the fact that others had earlier attempted, without success to secure leases on the same properties. In one case a deposit had already been paid in relation to an anticipated lease.
∑ That the present Minister of Lands and the Director-General of Lands establish a comprehensive, mandatory policy ensuring the proper and fair lease of Government lands at market value.
∑ That the Minister of Lands request the State Law Office to take all possible legal action to reverse the lease transactions in question.
∑ That the Public Prosecutor and the Commissioner of Police determine whether the conduct of Mr. Telukluk in converting 4 titles to his personal use should be prosecuted for criminal misappropriation.
∑ That the Prime Minister remove Mr Telukluk from the Council of Ministers and that Mr Telukluk not hold a ministerial position or leadership role in future.
∑ That the deposit paid by another person, in accordance with proper procedure, in relation to one of the pieces of land, be refunded to that person immediately.
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