27 Apr 2009

New citizens bureau set up in Vanuatu to improve accountability

7:25 pm on 27 April 2009

A new citizens bureau has been created in Vanuatu to investigate corruption and work with the Ombudsman and Police to hold officials accountable.

The Advocacy of Legal Advice Centre, or ALAC, has been established to follow up public complaints about officialdom, and to build a database of cases.

Transparency International's Marie Noelle Ferrieux Patterson is acting as a lawyer for the small ALAC office which currently has just one other staffer.

Ms Ferrieux Patterson says ALAC will provide more teeth in holding officials accountable, given that Ombudsman reports are often not acted upon.

"But at least there would be more reports and at least maybe the reports would come out before five years after the event has occurred and maybe they will do faster enquiry which I think is one of the commitments of the Ombudsman, to work faster, and maybe some of the cases wouldn't die - because what happens is that once the Ombudsman refers something to the Public Prosecutor, the Public Prosecutor doesn't do anything and the Ombudsman cannot go public on that but we can go public."

ALAC has its official launch later this week.