Public report on the former Prime Minster, Mr. Kormanís use of his influence in the exercise of his official duties in favour of his sister, Mrs. Antoinette Coulon Ė February 19, 1999 - Emalus Campus
The Prime Minister, Maxime Carlot. Korman and the President of the Republic exerted pressure on the Minister responsible for prisons, Mr. Yolu Abbil at the end of 1990, to personally have Mr. Kormanís sister, Mrs. Antoinette Coulon released from prison on license. She had been imprisoned for having embezzled funds while she was working with the Port Vila Urban Land Corporation (VULCAN), a Government organization. Mr. Yolu Abbil gave evidence that he acted against his will in exercising his discretion under the provisions of the Prison Act to release Mrs. Coulon.
After her release, Mr. Korman appointed his sister to a post in the Lands Department within the Public Service initially as a temporary officer and then as a permanent officer, in breach of Article 57(4) of the Constitution (which permits temporary recruitment by the Prime Minister only for specified periods to meet unforeseen needs) and also Article 60(4) which provides for the Public Service Commissionís independence. The appointment was also in breach of the Public Service Staff Manual which specifies that a person with a criminal record may not be appointed until 4 years has elapsed from the conviction. Later, Mrs. Coulonís appointment was made permanent by the Public Service Commission, (Messrs. Mael William, Daniel Ishmael, Amos Andeng, Edwin Basil, and Johnny Lulu) acting under pressure and in breach of the Constitution and Public Service Act.
The Council of Ministers decided to compensate a number of VULCAN employees who had lost their jobs after being made redundant. Mrs. Coulon, due to her conviction was not eligible for compensation, pursuant to the provisions of the Employment Act. Contrary to legal advice to this effect from the Attorney General, Mr. Korman used his influence to have Mrs. Coulon granted compensation. The Minister of Finance, Willie Jimmy also supported this action. Mrs. Coulon received 1,211,542 vatu in compensation. Mr. Korman justified this with the opinion that her conviction by the Supreme Court had been ďpoliticalĒ.
As a result of her criminal activities and moneys borrowed from VULCAN, Mrs. Coulon was indebted to VULCAN in the amount of 2,297,733 vatu. No steps were taken to collect this debt until 1997, six months after the Ombudsman began her investigation. When Mrs. Coulon was given early retirement, her termination benefits were used to partly offset her debt.
The Ombudsman found that Mr. Korman acted in breach of the Leadership Code by abusing his power and placing himself in a conflict of interest, thereby compromising his integrity and that of Vanuatu.
∑ That the Minister of Natural Resources ask the accounting officer to make a report on the reimbursement of Mrs. Coulonís debt.
∑ That the Attorney General consider possible civil action against Mrs. Coulon and Mr. Korman in respect of compensation of the sum of 1.211,542 vatu paid to Mrs. Coulon contrary to the advice of the Attorney General.
∑ That Mr. Korman should not be considered for any post in the Public Service involving control of public funds.
∑ That former members of the Public Service Commission (specified above) not be re-appointed to any position of responsibility.
∑ That those whose actions resulted in delay in recovering the debt of Mrs. Coulon be considered to have misconducted themselves professionally, thereby meriting disciplinary proceedings.
∑ That the President remind the Deputy Prime Minister Willie Jimmy about his allegiance to the Constitution and laws of Vanuatu.
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