5 Dec 2006

Vanuatu Internal Affairs Minister says suspended Lugainville Council abused powers

12:38 pm on 5 December 2006

Vanuatu's Minister for Internal Affairs says abuse of the powers vested in them by voters brought about the suspension of the Luganville Municipal Council.

George Wells says he has suspended the entire Council for the second time this year because the Councillors failed to recover funds which appeared outstanding in a 2005 audit of its accounts.

The first suspension was overturned in court, but Mr Wells says the latest is the last resort because despite giving them time to address the situation, it was going from bad to worse.

He's appointed a commissioner for 12 months to recover an estimated 400-thousand US dollars in taxpayer's money misappropriated by the Councillors.

"It's an attitude problem of the Councillors. Normally it's specified that councillors aren't allowed to advance cash in the Council, but they did so, advance cashes. And also they never controlled their expenses. Part of it, we can say is corruption, and misappropriation and abusing of powers. And that's one of the problems that caused the downfall of the Council."

Meanwhile, the suspended Councillors have been barred from entering the Council building by paramilitary police.