Chairman of VNPF expresses outrage at nepotism claims

The chairman of the Vanuatu National Provident Fund was outraged at alleged lack of balance shown by Daily Post yesterday. The paper’s front page story was this time emphasising already mentioned nepotism at the VNPF. Whilst it is easy to understand the Chairman’s vexation, the story was a listing of facts surrounding appointments at the Fund which demonstrate nepotism at work. Answers are needed by Fund members and Daily Post is right to demand them.

Two facts which have not been denied by the VNPF are the appointments of the treasurer of Prime Minister Sato Kilman’s political party to the position of VNPF head of corporate services (against the staff code of conduct) and the appointment of the Prime Minister’s formerly out-of-work sister as Manager, human resources. There appears to be a tendency to readily employ former TVL staff (maybe just because they are ‘known’) to posts which pay above award rates. Then there is the question of extraordinarily high salaries — the handyman is on Vt 100,000 a month.

The VNPF chairman wants ‘balance’ in the story. Statements of fact cannot be the subject of balance. Fund members want answers. Nobody wants a riot. Simil Johnson says the government is aware of the allegations and is investigating. It must now respond.

The Transparency page in Daily Post today focuses on Statutory Bodies being bled of their funds and assets. It is a continuation of last week’s observations, the VBTC under the spotlight.

In court yesterday, the Phocea crew claimed to be generally sorry for arriving without proper entry papers. Their main concern is to go home to the Philippines and the Czech Republic. The crew seem to also comprise the passengers of the luxurious vessel, just meandering from place to place. They were simply doing their job claimed their counsel, whether the work was as basic as cleaning the ship or maintaining the engines. There was no explanation as to how personnel such as the captain and engineer, people who must have spent many years at sea, could see it unnecessary to hold valid entry permits (especially visas) for other countries such as Tonga and Vanuatu presently. The captain is actually legally responsible for this.

The Public Prosecutor is wanting the investigation being carried out by the Fraud Unit to be completed so that in the event of there being further charges against any of these passenger/crew, they have not already been allowed to leave the country. And, of course, there are many questions to be answered, especially the involvement of Mr Pascal Anh Quan Saken who fled the country at the first attempt to have a search of the vessel. In the event, the Public Prosecutor won a stay of one week for hearing the charges against the crew.

Conversation around town now often centres on the large drugs cache found hidden at a South Efate beach a few years back. A vessel like the Phocea has many hiding places which would easily conceal drugs already here on their way to elsewhere. As well as Vanuatu diplomatic passports. (Why were Foreign Affairs personnel at the party on board before the vessel was cleared?) It is to be hoped the Police are pulling the vessel apart. We are to learn more later today. The Acting Commissioner of Police told Radio Vanuatu News this morning that criminal matters are being investigated, charges laid.

The groundbreaking for Vanuatu’s new National Archives Building took place late yesterday. A custom nasautonga took place over a week ago. The Vt 238 million building will be Australia’s gift to Vanuatu to mark this country’s first three decades of Independence.

A secondary school has opened at Big Bay Bush, Santo. It has been running for some time, but the official opening took place recently and Year 10 will be examined there at the end of this year.

Former Minister Don Ken has been found not guilty to charges which stem from drunkenness. The Public Prosecutor brought five eye-witnesses and a medical report which was disregarded “because it was not made by a medical practitioner”, Daily Post reported. The defence case was built around there being no assault at all. The charge of being drunk and disorderly was, curiously, withdrawn.