The Minister of Internal Affairs, Andrew Napuat, has announced plans to block public servants, police officers, teachers and members of Parliament from owning taxis and buses effective from January 1, 2019.
Speaking at a press conference at the Ministry Monday afternoon, Minister Napuat, announced that as minister responsible for public land transport, he had instructed the Public Land Transport Authority (PLTA) that all public servants, police officers and teachers that own and operate public land transport services such as taxi, service bus, common transport or tour operator in the urban centres where they reside and work that he intends to “stop and legislate” through the Public Land Transport Act that they will no longer own and operate any form of transport to be registered in their names and spouses by January 1, 2019.
“Anyone who is a public servant, police officer, teacher and a member of Parliament who owns and operates a public transport have until the end of this year to sell their vehicles to someone who is neither a public servant, police officer nor a teacher or send their vehicles to their islands of origin to provide the same service,” he added.
He said the purpose for the decision is to: control and manage the number of taxis, buses, common transport on the road in the urban areas, particularly in Port Vila; to limit the huge number of transport vehicles that has resulted in traffic congestion in town during busy hours, leading to traffic accidents; and give opportunities to others who do not earn an income because those targeted are already earning an income from government, to enter the transport sector and improve their standard of living and well being.
The minister explained that government had already banned the importation of second hand vehicles or buses for the purpose of being used as transport vehicles commencing January 1, 2018. This ban also covers the small Matiz cars.
“PLTA will work with the Department of Customs and Inland Revenue to enforce this decision at all our ports of entry.
“This will add to the list of prohibited items with the Department of Customs to import to Vanuatu,” he added.
The Minister was conscious that questions may arise concerning powers of the Minister to impose such action and he pointed to the powers of the Minister under the Public Land Transport Act, Section 44 (Subsection 1) that says “the Minister may by Order prescribe anything which is necessary or convenient to be prescribed for the better carrying out or giving effect to the provisions of this Act.”
“When the PLT Act is amended this year 2018, this policy directive will be inserted in one of the provisions of the amendment,” he added.
Minister Napuat also pointed to the Public Service Staff Manual 10.3 titled Staff Members Obligations, which requires that civil servants disclose and take responsible steps to avoid any conflict of interest (real or apparent) in connection with his or her employment.
“We will liaise with the Public Service Commission if civil servants adhere to their staff manual and disclose their business interests or not which could cause some conflict of interest when issuing permits, business licenses.
“I understand there are apparently some conflict of interest between civil servants and their family members who own and operate some form of transport in the urban area.
“A civil servant or police officer cannot be a compliance and enforcement officer of public land transport systems in Vanuatu and also own, operate and drive a public land transport,” he said.
He explained that legislative changes will be reflected in the amendment of the PLT Act to be made this year including other legislation that deal with registration of vehicles, drivers licenses, business license and PLTA will ensure these legislative changes are done this year to address relating to transfer and registration of existing vehicles to the names of spouses and sons and daughters, which for public servants, police officers, teachers and MPs will not be allowed.