Vanuatu daily news digest | 24 January 2013

The Vanuatu National Provident Fund board has terminated General Manager Anniva Tarilongi, who has been under suspension on full pay for the last five months. Six personnel recruited during Tarilongi’s term were also terminated after similar periods of suspension. The announcement of the terminations was made on Radio Vanuatu news Wednesday night. It was also reported Wednesday by Radio New Zealand International that Tarilongi was first employed by Telecom Vanuatu where she also recruited close friends and paid them high salaries.

The US Embassy in Papua New Guinea has dismissed newspaper reports in PNG that US Ambassador Walter North met with Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot, reports RNZI. Carlot and the Vanuatu Government provided conflicting accounts as to why Carlot was in PNG, said the Embassy. However, Embassy spokesman Regis Prevot advised the media that no meeting took place.


Vanuatu daily news digest | 8 January 2013

Today’s post is a bit of a catch-up. The various Daily Digesters are all enjoying the holiday season immensely, and have got a bit too relaxed. Notable news items in Vanuatu’s media this week:

From the weekend: VBTC News and Daily Post on Saturday told us that the 2017 Pacific Games will be held in Vanuatu. Notably, the Minister responsible for Youth and Sport, Steven Kalsakau, was also the Minister responsible for selling off the Government land which was promised by Minister Ham Lini to the international committee as the area for the Games Village. Talk about shitting in your own nest. Games CEO Joe Carlo has four years to sort this out.

Government will review education policy, said Prime Minister Sato Kilman in his New Year address to the nation. He told Radio Vanuatu News there are policies which need a quick review to answer many “concerns” and “issues” which have arisen. He also wants to share the educational responsibilities with NGOs to ensure Government “focuses on the main areas of work.” We can only hope ordering school stationery is not one of these “main areas”.

Yesterday: we revealed in this post that a lease over customary land belonging to the people of Mangaliliu and Lelepa, leased out to Kalorip Poilapa of Mele by the then Minister of Land Steven Kalsakau in September last 2012, has been resold. The present Minister of Lands, James Bule, authorised the sale of the lease to Michel Monvoisin and Ludovic Bolliet for the pitifully small sum of VT 2 million, a few days before Christmas last year. Merry Christmas, indigenous people of Vanuatu, with love from your own Government! xoxoxo

Daily Post lead with a rundown of the support Government has from the 12 parties and three independents affiliated with PM Sato Kilman. There is a list of Ministers and their parties including new Minister Tony Nari of the Iauko Group. Another Daily Post story has MP Tony Wright urging PM Kilman to talk with the Opposition. Wright feels that the small political groupings “hold the government to ransom.”

And finally, from today’s media: The Government promised that the Auditor General’s report on the Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) would be made public last Monday. The report has not been released by Government, and the VNPF website has been taken offline. No news is good news, it seems for the VNPF management and the Vanuatu Government. The report was commissioned by the previous Kilman government to examine allegations of mismanagement within the nation’s superannuation fund. The VNPF, according to the last available VNPF Annual Report from 2011, is responsible for more than Vt 14 Billion of member’s funds.

As a “waiting and eager financial member” observes in today’s Daily Post Letters, one suspended executive is receiving vt346,154 of members’ funds fortnightly while suspended pending the outcome of the Auditor General’s report.

International criminals, are looking for a safe and pleasant jurisdiction to run your operations, free from pesky law enforcement types? Then why not come to Vanuatu, untouched criminal paradise! Interpol, the international global police network, no longer has any official connection with Vanuatu’s police force, another casualty of Vanuatu’s retaliatory deportation of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) following Australia’s imprisonment of dodgy Sato Kilman aide Clarence Marae. The Daily Post story also notes that Vanuatu has never been a member of Interpol, which links the police forces of over 190 member nations, significantly enhancing the ability of a national police force to combat transnational crimes such as drug smuggling. Vanuatu has always had to rely on foreign police forces to assist with transnational criminal investigations. So much for self-reliance.

Perhaps the international criminals who will no doubt flock to Vanuatu on hearing this news will find companionship with international war criminals, who can also find a safe haven here in Vanuatu. Is Vanuatu’s Government actively working to attract international criminals to our country? It certainly seems like it.

Vanuatu daily news digest | 29 December 2012

Prime Minister satisfied Vanuatu no longer has legal basis to detain Phocea, is the headline on the front of today’s Daily Post. Prime Minister Sato Kilman has written to “Mr Saken, Phocea, Port Vila” to advise that he is authorising the immediate release of the vessel following advice from the office of the Attorney General. The advice and the PM’s “authorisation” come despite allegations of forgery and fraud against the self-proclaimed owner of Phocea. However,  the head of Ports and Harbours, Mr Morris Kaloran, refuses to release the vessel to anyone until legal ownership is proven. Soon after the yacht’s illegal entry last July, forged papers were discovered on board, showing that several months later Phocea would be registered on a Vanuatu international registry. Local lawyer John Less Napuati is suing the vessel ‘in rem’ as his signature was forged on these papers. Phocea should remain in Vanuatu until his case is heard. Government suspended further investigation into the yacht’s self-styled owner.

Projected track of Tropical Cyclone Freda, 29/12/2012. Image from US Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

Projected track of Tropical Cyclone Freda, 29/12/2012. Image from US Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

The tropical depression we reported yesterday is now Tropical Cyclone Freda. TC Freda is still projected to pass to the south of New Caledonia, but as the image above shows, Vanuatu is still within TC Freda’s potential path. A cyclone warning has been issued by Solomon Islands Meteorological Office for the area to the north of Vanuatu. Vanuatu’s Meteorological Service says only that TC Freda “lies near Solomon Islands and [is] moving southwest towards the Coral Sea”, though the possibility of a cyclone within Vanuatu’s area is 60-100% between Sunday and New Year’s Day.

Auditor General John Path will present his report on the Vanuatu National Provident Fund next Monday. He is required to present it to Finance Minister, Charlot Salwai, and could give no details in advance of his handover.

Investigation into VNPF management and investments begins

The investigation into the management of the Vanuatu National Provident Fund has begun, following the discovery of widespread nepotism in August, report Radio Vanuatu News and Daily Post. It has taken Government long enough to hire the auditors (Ernst & Young Australia), but it is said they will also be looking at the investment portfolio — most important in view of recent noteworthy changes in the nature of the securities the Fund uses. VNPF members will also need a report on the management appointments which enabled dismissed staff from Telecom Vanuatu Limited to fill important positions at the VNPF as if they are professional fund managers. The audit will be completed by Read the rest of this entry »

Police use warrant to demand information from newspaper

In a mildly alarming story for the media, a search warrant was produced by a police investigation unit at Daily Post premises yesterday to get copies of all items concerning the suspension of Commissioner of Police Joshua Bong earlier this year. Editor Royson Willie sensibly told the police officers there was no need for such heavy-handed techniques as copies of all newspapers are readily available. Daily Post observed certain police are trying to build up a case concerning mutiny to explain Bong’s suspension. The newspaper prudently gave little space to the story. Bong’s performance will be reassessed and this will occur on October 8.

Just on two months since the VNPF crisis, Daily Post leads today with the story that the VNPF audit promised by GM Santos Vatoko “may” begin next week. The former telecoms-turned-investment executives remain suspended on full salary. A successful overseas tender to conduct the audit was promised by 27 August. However, the successful bidder’s name has not yet been announced. Will 2011’s loss of Vt 156 million be repeated in 2012?

Read the rest of this entry »

Vt 152 million discrepancy in Vanuatu National Provident Fund’s accounts reported

A Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) media briefing was yesterday told of the astonishing shortfall of Vt 152 million in the 2011 accounts of the VNPF. This was “due to over-allocation of funds to members,” Daily Post reports today. Daily Post attended a media briefing by an Australian volunteer, Ross Steel, recruited to help the VNPF.  Steel had drafted the amendment to the VNPF Act which was shelved by the Finance Minister Moana Carcasses when Government ran out of time to complete its legislative programme. Steel says the amendment will force the VNPF to act in the best interests of its members. This blog was questioned concerning the Vt 152 million loss figure back in mid-August when the situation concerning the VNPF was very tense. Our use of it is now justified. No explanation was given as to where the money went, or what sort of systematic failure caused this, or what measures are now in place to prevent this from occurring again.

VNPF management are still not being straight with us. The actual loss appears to be slightly higher, and their 2011 financials have now mysteriously vanished from their website. VNPF’s 2011 Annual report, previously available on their website, has been removed in the past few weeks. As we have reported previously, page 32 of this report shows a loss of  Vt 156 million for the general reserve account, which are the funds kept in reserve to pay out members’ entitlements. Why is this amount in the negative? Why did the VNPF’s Read the rest of this entry »

Phocea crew charged with multiple counts of illegal entry, fined Vt 100,000 each

Crew members of the yacht Phocea read their charge sheets at the Magistrate’s Court, Port Vila, Vanuatu, Thursday 16 August 2012

Late yesterday afternoon at the Magistrate’s Court in Port Vila, some thirteen crew members of the Phocea, charged with illegal entry to Vanuatu, were fined. They had illegally entered the country over several days using the sailing boat’s dinghy and other vessels. They came and went to Pango and other places without Police, Customs and Quarantine clearance.

The Public Prosecutor was seeking the maximum fine of Vt 2,000,000 per person for all thirteen pleading guilty. However, they were hoping to be fined only Read the rest of this entry »