In introducing the Bill for Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) (Amendment) Act No. 2020 in parliament yesterday morning, Finance Minister Johnny Koanapo assured that the members’ funds are safe.
He revealed the Fund’s net reserve stands at VT22.7 billion and also informed MPs and the nation that VNPF owns 60% of the National Bank of Vanuatu (NBV) and it is the people’s Bank.
Minister Koanapo also mentioned amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and Tropical Cyclone disaster, the VNPF paid out Vt2.1 billion to its financial members to assist them.
“VNPF owns 60% of the National Bank of Vanuatu and this is significant for Vanuatu when turning 40 years for the ownership of national assets,” he said.
“It is quite a big step forward and it is about time the people of this country feel that they own a bank with an investment of Vt800 million from the VNPF and I want to assure the people of Vanuatu that their funds are safe.”
Minister Koanapo said since the establishment of the Act in 1986, the Act has undergone only one amendment in 2007.
With the experiences and bad management resulting in the financial loses, a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) was carried out in 2016, to investigate the alleged mismanagement, illegal and improper conduct of the past and present staff of the Fund.
In the CoI report, there are some key recommendations for amendments in the Act.
He said the Bill comes to provide for the amendments in the Act as recommended in the report. In addition, some of the amendments are also necessary as the Act is outdated, and silent and restrictive on issues affecting the Fund.
The amendment, he said, will also address other loopholes identified in the recommendations of the Act.
The Finance Minister added the Bill supports the Government’s ongoing initiatives to achieve the objectives of the National Sustainable Development Plan, particularly to increase stability of an economy on the equitable and sustainable growth to create jobs and income earning opportunities that is accessible to all people in rural and urban areas.
He outlined some of the features of the Bill as: to provide for the appointment of the board, to establish other committees to assist the Board carrying out its functions; and to provide guidelines for the investment of monies of the Fund; and to provide for the duties of the Fund as the Trustee; and to provide for the registration of the employees; and to provide for the partial with withdrawal of the credit from the Fund at the age 0f 47 years and to provide for the offences and penalties under the Act.
Initial discussions on the principal of the bill, received overwhelming support from members on both sides of the House.
Opposition Leader Ralph Regenvanu, who was the first to comment on the principle of the bill, after it was introduced by the Minister of Finance said the bill is important and commended the minister for bringing it to parliament.
He added that it is the result of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) and the recommendations by the CoI to stop conflict of interest, political influences, past ministerial inferences, bad investments and to stop what had happened in the past as mentioned by the Minister of Finance when introducing the bill.
The Leader of Opposition highlighted a number of points raised in the bill which he said is a result of the findings and recommendations of the CoI, however he said: “…not every little detail, there are some sections that we will be abstaining or voting against but the overall bill, yes we will support it”.
MPs from both sides of the House expressed their appreciation to the Finance minister for the amendment which caters for welfare for the members of the funds.
The debate on the Bill for the Vanuatu National Provident Fund (Amendment) Act No. of 2020, will resume when parliament resumes at 8.30am today because the Speaker adjourned the session around 2.15pm when there was no quorum to continue the session yesterday afternoon.