Ombudsman of the Republic of Vanuatu Publishes Public Report On the Establishment and Management of the Members Education Support Scheme (MESS)
The Ombudsman of the Republic of Vanuatu, Mr Hamlison Bulu has today issued a Public Report on the Establishment and Management of the Members Education Support Scheme (MESS) by the VNPF Board and the Ministry of Education and Training after an own initiative investigation into the establishment of the Scheme.
The Ombudsman finds the following after his investigation :
- The then, Minister of Education and Training, and the Ministry of Education and Training failed to carry out consultations with stake holders on the new policy. This is in breach of the requirements of the Government Act (CAP 243) in particular section 13 (6) (a).
- The then, Minister of Education and Training and the Ministry of Education and Training failed in their duty to take the policy containing the new initiative being developed pursuant to the “Vanuatu 2030 -People’s Plan” under Society Pillar 2 regarding “…increase higher education opportunities…” to the Council of Ministers and obtaining its approval on the policy. This is in breach of the requirements of the Government Act (CAP 243).
- The General Manager of the VNPF Board failed to carry out consultations with members of the Fund and other stake holders before finalizing the policy of the MESS. The Board of trustee of the National Provident Fund pursuant to section 15 of the VNPF Act. As a trustee its obligations include-to act honestly, reasonably and in good faith in every decisions and actions taken concerning the FUND;
- to act with care and diligence at all times
- to avoid conflict of interest at all times; and
The lack of –
- proper consultations and stakeholders; and
- agreeing to internal policies and guidelines with the Ministry of Education and Training to guide the implementation of MESS. In my view amounts to a breach of duty of care of the board as a trustee of the Fund under(a) and (b) in the paragraph immediately above
- No Internal rules or guidelines were agreed to by the parties to the MOU to ensure the smooth implementation and administration of the scheme in line with clause 5 of the MOU regarding obligation of the parties.
- MESS has not been approved by the DCO nor the Council of Ministers.
- MESS is not a VNPF Scholarship per se but a student loan scheme with a 4% monthly interest repayment after a student graduates.
- MESS has been created by the Ministry of Education and the Vanuatu National Provident Fund Board outside the requirements of the law – The Government Act (CAP.243).
- The MOU in itself is legally okay, however, when seen against the duty and obligations of the Minister of Education and Training to comply with the Government Act (CAP.243) it begs the question to be asked and answered as follows: Is the MOU valid? In my considered view, it is not a valid MOU as it has been enforced in breach of the requirements of the Government Act.
The following recommendations were made by Ombudsman Bulu.
- Terminate the MESS Scheme and re-negotiate the terms and conditions. However, if the parties insist on its continuation, parties must take the matter for approval to the Council of Ministers.
- VNPF to continue its support for current recipients but avoid new recipients until the scheme is properly set up.
- MOET concentrates on VANGOV Scholarships and leave MESS to VNPF under its commercial arrangements.
Source: Office of the Ombudsman of Vanuatu