Commission Of Inquiry Into Vanuatu National Provident Fund Performance Ends Hearings

CoI turns attenttion to final report to ensure non-performance of funds doesn't continue

By Jane Joshua

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Dec. 28, 2016) – The public hearing undertaken by the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the alleged mismanagement, illegal and improper conduct of past and present staff of the Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF), ended on Friday.

“We have conducted 26 interviews over five days, it was quite challenging but went well,” CoI chairman Olivier Fernandez said of the historic inquiry into the custodian of the people’s Fund, which was televised and broadcasted live from the VNPF conference room in Port Vila.

Interviewees comprise (current and former) VNPF staff, Board members and third parties involved — all in connection to the allegations involving Vt4.454 billion [US$41.6 million] worth of non-performing investments undertaken by the Fund, from 2007 to 2014.

The interviewees also include experts, which the Commission wished to obtain advice from.

The non-performing investments which came under the scrutiny of the CoI include: Bouffa Range 2009 (Equity), Milai Farm 2009 (Equity), Stella Mare (Land) 2010 (Property), Etas 2010 (Land) (Property), National Bank 2011 (Property), Centre Point (Bred), Nasama Resort Ltd (Equity), National Bank 2012 (Equity), Club Vanuatu 2013 (Property), Banian (Land) 2013 (Property), Pekoa (Land) 2013 (Property), Customs (Land) 2013 (Property), Claire Doric (Land) 2013 (Property), SPOL Efate (Land) 2013 (Property), Milai SPOL Santo (Land) 2013 (Equity), Wilco 2013 (Equity), Interchange Submarine 2013 (Equity), Interchange Ltd 2014 (Loan), Bouffa 2014 (Loan).

CoI chairman Fernandez acknowledged Minister of Justice Ronald Warsal, for the trust he placed in the Commission and the commitment of the CoI members: Mr. John Timakata, Mrs. Cathy Nako, Mr. Andrew Kausiama, Mrs. Anita Jowitt and Mr. Tony Naliupis.

“We barely knew each other before we were appointed to tackle this challenge,” said Fernandez.

“But everyone was up to the task.”

He also thanked the members of the Fund and people of Vanuatu.

“I hope you felt that our work was supporting your cause,” he said.

“The next step is for the team to work on the report. The findings will be supported with information from the interviews.

“We will submit recommendations and make sure there will be follow-up actions to ensure the recommendations are implemented. Our mission is not only to make sure people know what happened but also that it will not happen again in the future.”

He also called on members of the public to respect the interviewees.

“Do not take matters into your hands and mete your own justice,” he said.

“There are steps taken to resolve what has been done, the CoI is the first step. Let us follow the right channels.”

The CoI previously went over 5,000 documents in the review. On completion of the report, the Commission will present its findings and recommendations to the Minister of Justice.

Many members of the public have questioned whether the Government will act on the recommendations and findings of this CoI or whether it will be another report gathering dust on the shelves.

This concern was raised by MP for Efate Rural, Joshua Kalsakau when the CoI was appointed on August 17, 2016. MP Kalsakau stressed the importance of dealing with funds that belong to the people and whether the officers implicated, will actually be prosecuted.

In response Minister Warsal said the question of whether criminal or civil proceedings can be advanced against people implicated is hinged on the findings of the Commission.

He stressed that the government does not want this COI to be like the past COIs, such as the Commission involving the fishermen.

“This COI is different and needs to be resolved as soon as possible, with an outcome that must satisfy the members of the Fund,” he said.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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