Pay cuts for Vanuatu MPs

Vanuatu Minister of Internal Affairs Andrew Napuat. Picture: VANUATU DAILY POST

PORT VILA, 13 MAY 2019 (VANUATU DAILY POST) – Almost Vt300, 000 (US$2,637) each will be deducted from the gratuity payments of 51 Members of Vanuatu Parliament (MPs) in the 11th legislature.

This stems from the practice of backdating the salary and entitlements of MPs from the official announcement date of MPs-elect from the Electoral Commission (EC), instead of from the date they took their oaths in parliament.

Things will change in this 11th legislature, according to a copy of letter by the Attorney General (AG) Kiel Loughman, dated 24 October 2018.

This came about after Minister of Internal Affairs, Andrew Napuat proposed an amendment to the Oaths Act (CAP 37) to provide for MPs to receive their salary and other entitlements from the date of election and not from the day they take their oaths.

But the AG advised otherwise.

“We advise that MPs cannot receive salary and other entitlements commencing from the date of election because election of candidates takes place on the date of election,” AG Loughman advised in his letter to the Chairman of the EC, Martin Tete.

“Not only that but they have not yet taken their oath of allegiance.”

According to this letter, the reason for the proposed amendment was to address the issue concerning MP Gillion William in respect to his salary and other entitlements.

The official declaration of candidates after the 2016 general election indicated that MP William lost his seat, he then filed an election petition against Nato Tawia and the Supreme Court ordered for a recount of votes in the Efate Rural Constituency. The petition was successful and MP William was the successful candidate for the 4th seat in the Efate Rural constituency

AG Loughman in his advice to the EC stated that an oath of allegiance is a formal promise which MPs make to undertake the duty of allegiance to Vanuatu, Constitution, and the law, and to the people of Vanuatu before they (MPs) take their seats in Parliament.

“Under subsection 5(2) of the Act it is a requirement that the MPs take their oath during the first sitting of Parliament following a general election or during the sitting at which an MP first takes up his or her seat in Parliament.

“We advise that unless an MP takes his or her oath pursuant to subsection 5(2) of the Act, he or she cannot take his or her seat in Parliament receive a salary or speak in debates or votes in Parliament.”

He stated the proposed amendment cannot be retrospective in relation to MP William because he is not entitled to any salary and other entitlements for the period prior to taking his oath.

Daily Post investigations found out that for 51 MPs after the official announcements of candidates by the Electoral Commission, the national parliament backdated their payments – 20 days – starting from the date of election instead of the day they took their oaths.

This means for this 11th legislature, 51 MPs will have to repay VT299, 732(US$2,635) each to the state, over Vt15.2 million (US$133,000) in total.

Daily Post was told that this amount will be deducted from their gratuity payments.

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