Transparency calls for naming of Vanuatu diplomats "on commission" | Pacific Beat

Transparency calls for naming of Vanuatu diplomats "on commission"

Transparency calls for naming of Vanuatu diplomats "on commission"

Updated 29 February 2012, 5:10 AEDT

Vanuatu's ambassador to Russia gets 15 per cent of any aid money he can secure from the country, says Transparency International.

Now Transparency International wants it publicly revealed which Vanuatu ambassadors are paid a percentage of the funds they secure and how much they recieve.

Presenter:Brian Abbott

Speaker:Marie-Noelle Ferrieux-Patterson, president, Transparency Vanuatu

FERRIEUX-PATTERSON: I think there is money speaking there in a sense that aid is very often about money, about projects, so in some ways it's not surprising that we speak about money in a new relationship with Russia. But what is certainly surprising is the first time at least that the people are aware that an ambassador, which is a public role, is a role to go in the country and will get 15 per cent of whatever monies are brought back. We are put in a position of imagining if we had an ambassador in Brussels, getting money from the European Union, came back and said look I can get 15 per cent of what you're hoping they'll give to Vanuatu. If someone is working in France or in New Caledonia as a representative of Vanuatu said the same thing I think the door that is open is certainly a concern, and I've said repeatedly in the press in the last month and a half since we heard about the appointment.

ABBOTT: Do we know whether this 15 per cent was offered by the government or demanded by the person who was appointed ambassador?

FERRIEUX-PATTERSON: No we don't really know but it's certainly part of a negotiation. I think the whole matter starts with a matter of money, the first time we heard about anything was when a letter from Abkhazia in Georgia I think that is when the person was appointed roving ambassador for Russia started to be known to be involved in this side of the globe and after that congratulating the person taking the power in Abkhazia after the death of the former leader, and then because Abkhazia is apparently under some close relationship with Russia when the relationship between the person developed with Russia and then became accepted as a roving ambassador.

ABBOTT: Do we know whether this situation or a similar situation applies to ambassadors anywhere else?

FERRIEUX-PATTERSON: No we haven't heard so we have got to assume that it doesn't apply to anyone else. I think the major concern also is that when you appoint an ambassador that is a sign of a public role and one the appointment to be done on merit and one imagine that there should be some other reason than pure business. We also arriving at the time of elections, when money in the country or is needed for the services in the country, but is even more needed by the politicians because unfortunately we see in Vanuatu that often giving the services to the public is not a priority for most politicians, but the priority is to raise funds to be able to survive or give it up at the next elections. That is coming too at the same time with the modification of the law to be able to grant diplomatic passport to foreigners. And that is also raised in the paper almost daily since the amendment was passed in the sense of the type of legalised corruption that it is bringing access to monitor the politicians and that has been said by a person who was in a sense a father of independence, the person was the minister of foreign affairs in the past, and the person was going to purchase 200 diplomatic passports in the past, Jonah Tooman. So I think he has taken from the Vanuaku Party this time and really blasted the change in parliament and called it legalised corruption.

ABBOTT: This system of ambassadors receiving commission, do any other countries apply it?

FERRIEUX-PATTERSON: No I'm actually looking at the moment, doing some research to kind of find out whether that is a kind of Vanuatu initiative or it is something that has been done overseas. But I have not found yet an example, so that is why it is even more of a concern.

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