7 May 2013

Vanuatu government tour of provinces labelled extravagant

8:35 pm on 7 May 2013

Vanuatu's new Prime Minister is initiating official efforts to work more closely with the people in the provinces as he and his cabinet embark on a nationwide tour in a bid to better understand the grassroots needs.

Moana Carcasses Kalosil says each of Vanuatu's six provinces will have a turn hosting a meeting of the Council of Ministers and various department heads.

But as Jamie Tahana reports, one former Prime Minister has questioned how the government can afford this tour when the budget is already stretched:

The Prime Minister, Moana Carcasses, says the government needs to better understand what people's problems are so they create better policies in Port Vila.

"We're going to bring the government to the province, and this is where we can interact with the people, the grassroots to understand what is their problem and the issues so we can address it."

Mr Carcasses says they will also bring with them government department director-general's, private sector representatives and foreign donors.

But the former Prime Minister, Sato Kilman, says there is no need for the government to send as many people as they are.

He's labelled the exercise an extravagent use of public money that could be better spent on more important things.

Mr Kilman says the tour could cost as much as 30 million vatu.

It was not budgeted for. Now, while it may be legal for director-generals to wire funds from other services to be able to cater for this meeting. It is morally wrong because it is not what the government requested parliament's approval for.

But the Anti-Corruption Commission's Phil Manhire says he understands the money to pay for the tour has come from the Carcasses government's move to cut down on wasteful overseas travel by ministers and official delegations.

Mr Manhire says the tour gives people in remote communities a chance to see what their government is doing and to question them.

He says it's a huge step towards transparency and cleaning up the government of Vanuatu.

It's all in the interests of accountability and transparency and most importantly bringing the government to the people. After all, the government IS the people. So, they should be there at the sharp end from time to time. So, I think it's a good thing 'cos it does give the grassroots people a better chance to see what their government's doing, and for god's sake you know, actually cast their eyes upon those who have their faith in their hands.

Sato Kilman says he has nothing against the government going to the provinces, but holding entire cabinet meetings and paying for other people is over the top.

The government needs to go out to the provinces. But when I say government, this is ministers going on their own to see things under their responsibility. To run the country properly we need to go out and see what's out there. But, this is different. This is a council meeting taking place in Torba, a luxury that we cannot afford especially when we're looking for money to provide essential services.

However Moana Carcasses says the tour will go ahead this month, explaining that the cabinet needs to get in touch with people in remote areas because successive governments have failed to address their needs.