The Ombudsman of the Republic of Vanuatu has toured the northern part of the country conducting free awareness to the public and leaders.
Ombudsman Hamlison Bulu first conferred about the role of the Office of the Ombudsman within the society in Lakatoro, Malekula, and Municipal Council in Santo and later in Torba Provincial Council.
During his awareness, Mr Bulu explained the position of the Ombudsman within the structure of the Republic of Vanuatu. And why an Ombudsman is needed.
He said that a good understanding of the role of the Ombudsman by leaders and citizens will help build the confidence in the Office. A good appreciation of why we have an Ombudsman in the law enforcement structure of the State is equally important to lend support to the work of the Ombudsman.
He explained to every councillors who attended the awareness that our structure consist of a Head of State at the very top who plays more of a ceremonial role in upholding the unity of the nation and its people.
The Parliament is the highest body in the land responsible for making laws for the good government of the people and regulating affairs of Vanuatu. Parliament elects the Prime Minister from among its members. Members of Parliament are also, along with the Presidents of Regional Councils, constitute the Electoral College, which elects the President, for a five-year term.
He continued on about the Executive arm of the government as the most powerful institution in the country that is responsible for service delivery to the people of Vanuatu in a fair manner according to law. It has huge resources at its disposal to enable it to carry out its functions and to enforce law and order in the country.
The Constitution requires the Executive to provide services to its people fairly. It is also responsible for ensuring that there is justice according to law in the country. It is further required to comply with the law in all its dealings.
Why do we need Ombudsman?
Ombudsman presence in Vanuatu is very important. His role is commonly known as the ‘watchdog’ responsible for ensuring that the Executive governs according to law.
The Executive manage billions of people’s money and decides how it is distributed. We may not like the way funds are distributed. However, it has the exclusive authority to make such decision and how such funds are managed. The Ombudsman is the authority that has been mandated by the Constitution to make sure the government must comply with the law, to ensure there is good governance, there is fairness on the application of the use of the money, and there is justice.
He encouraged people to lodge claims to the Office of the Ombudsman when they believe that there is misconduct by a leader or an institution of government.
Leaders, particularly those in Parliament are responsible for making laws for the good government of Vanuatu. They are required by the Leadership Code to comply with such laws in decisions and actions that they make .
A citizen has the right to complain to the Ombudsman who believes that he or she has been a victim of an injustice as a result of a particular conduct of a leader or a government agency.
It is not easy for many citizens to challenge the Executive Government for redress for injustices they believe has befallen them due to a decision or action of the Executive or a member of the Executive such as the Prime Minister or a Minister.
That is why the Office of the Ombudsman is there to help you. When a complaint is filed against a leader, the Ombudsman has the power to follow up, investigate, produce a report and make recommendations to have that particular leader disciplined, if need be.
Leaders at Provincial and Municipal Governments are no different to national leaders. They must also comply with the law in all their decisions and actions.
All leaders must abide by the laws in their official functions and their private life.
Why the Leadership Code?
It is an ethical rule that sets standards for leaders to comply with some of the provisions are ethical or moral standards and some are criminal offences that are adopted to comprise the leadership Code.
The Code exist to ensure that the leaders keep a very high standard of behaviour at all times to maintain respect in themselves and the offices they occupy to maintain a healthy relationship between the government and the governed.
Leaders specified under Article 67 of the Constitution and Section 5 of the Leadership Code Act are as follows:
The Leadership Code Act [Cap 240] was introduced for the sole purpose of complementing the Ombudsman Act. It was created to give effect to Chapter 10 of the Constitution by providing for a Leadership Code to assist in the governing of the conduct of leaders throughout Vanuatu.
Leaders in the Luganville Municipal Council and the TORBA Provincial Council and the members of the general public have expressed their gratitude at the opportunity of having heard the messages from the Ombudsman of Vanuatu personally. The leaders in the new Luganville Municipal Council and the leaders in the TORBA Provincial Government Council are now better aware of their roles as leaders along with the members of the public at large.
Public servants employed in the Provincial centres have applauded the Ombudsman for coming to them and the people in the rural areas to inform them of the duties of their leaders to them and their role in assisting the Ombudsman ensure that their government governs the people fairly. That it governs according to law and not according to other persuasions.
For most of the people, those times were the first for them to hear about the role of the Ombudsman and their own role in assisting the Ombudsman ensure that good governance is adhered to by their government for the benefit of all citizens.
The tour was based in the main centres in our provinces in the north but people have expressed their interest in what the office is doing and preferred if the Ombudsman can visit them in their communities.
Apart from that, people in Torres have requested the Ombudsman to conduct another awareness to the northern most part of the country and it is likely that sometimes next year an Ombudsman team will visit the Torres Islands.
It is the intention of the Office of the Ombudsman to reach across the country with the message of good governance through the Office of the Ombudsman in 2020.