Between 11-15 June 2018, 18 officers from across Vanuatu Government integrity agencies participated in Strengthening Skills in administrative investigations - Advanced investigations training. The participants represented the Office of the Vanuatu Ombudsman, Public Service Commission (Compliance Unit), Vanuatu Police Force (Professional Standards Unit), Financial Intelligence Unit, Land Ombudsman and the National Integrity and Anti-Corruption Committee.

The workshop was delivered by Mr. Chris Wheeler (New South Wales Deputy Ombudsman), Mr. Brendan Delahunty (representative of the Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman) and Ms. Velma Karabani, Director (General Complaints Investigations), Office of the Vanuatu Ombudsman. It represented the final and most substantial part of a three-phase training and development initiative conducted between 2015 and 2018 with the support of the Australian Government-funded Vanuatu Australia Policing and Justice Program (VAPJP) and the Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman.

Building upon a similar 2016 course, the workshop focused on providing a more in-depth examination of the key topics covered in earlier training - with a greater emphasis aimed at developing the practical skills associated with frontline complaint handling and administrative investigations.

The multi-agency, multi-disciplinary nature of the workshop was very successful with participants gaining increased understanding of the work of, and strengthening relationships with, other agencies. Participants appreciated the highly interactive nature of the training and guest presentations from the State Law Office (Attorney General and Director, Advisory Unit) on legislative interpretation and legal professional privilege and the Right to Information Unit on the new legislation.

At the conclusion of the workshop, participants reflected on key learnings and strategies for future professional development, resolving toform a working group made up of representatives of the VPF Professional Standards Unit, the Financial Intelligence Unit, the Ombudsman, the Land Ombudsman and Public Service Commission. It was agreed that this group should take responsibility for coordinating proposed actions, including relating to developing a sustained approach to identifying and managing conflicts of interests, creating closer inter-agency cooperation during investigations, conducting reviews of agency guidelines and procedures and strengthening cross-governmental and community understanding of the work of integrity agencies. VAPJP will continue to provide support to this working group and individual officers working in integrity agencies as they begin to apply skills learnt, identify and implement ongoing professional development and build the Vanuatu integrity network.