Pacific Islands Centre for Public Administration


flag vanuatuVanuatu is an archipelagic nation of 83 islands, extending over 1000 kilometres in a north-south direction between the equator and the tropmap_of_vanuatuic of Capricorn. It lies some 2000 kilometres to the northeast of Brisbane in the Coral Sea, at similar latitudes to Cairns in North Queensland. The population of Vanuatu is approximately 250,000. Port Vila, on the island of Efate, is the capital.

Formerly known as the New Hebrides, Vanuatu was jointly governed by British and French administrations before attaining independence on 30 July 1980.

The Vanuatu government embarked on a number of initiatives aimed at improving both the delivery and reach of services and the regulatory environment. A monitoring and evaluation unit has been established within the Department of Strategic Policy Planning and Aid Coordination in the Ministry of the Prime Minister. Efforts are ongoing to improve working relationships across government, streamline reporting systems and improve communications (including an e-government project and roll out of the Financial Management Information System in the provinces). The Public Service Act (1998) and the Public Service Staff Manual are being reviewed.
The Public Service Commission is concentrating its efforts in implementation of its independent role under the Constitution, reviewing and reforming state owned enterprises, and providing for a free flow of information on government programs and services to members of parliament, citizens, civil society and development partners to increase accountability of leaders and government institutions. The overarching strategic planning tools are the Priorities and Action Agenda (PAA) and the Planning Long Acting Short (PLAS) policy statements. Each ministry has corporate or strategic plans, which should be reflected in the annual plans and budget submissions. However, the national budget remains the best indicator of the government’s actual priorities.

The capacity of the Vanuatu public sector to deliver quality public services has progressed, but remains limited.. Spending on health and education as a percentage of the overall budget is high by developing country standards, but remains insufficient to meet the needs of the increasing population. Apart from primary schools and first aid posts, most ni-Vanuatu have little contact with the state. The public sector is generally characterised by (i) limited human resource base, (ii) absence of modern human resource management and (iii) having limited reach outside of the major urban centres. The result is low productivity of staff, with high levels of key personnel exposure as a select few officers undertake many of the jobs with the greatest responsibility across the spectrum of the public service. This leads to a level of discontinuity in policy design and implementation, rendering capacity development largely unsustainable. The recruitment of public servants is done via one of three commissions – the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Police Service Commission, and the Teaching Services Commission. The Judicial Service Commission looks after officials of the Courts. There is only one department that has its own legislation – the State Law Office – which allows them to recruit and set remuneration levels independently.
The total number of permanent civil servants is approximately 4,500 of which approximately two thirds are male and majority tend to be in the 31-40 age bracket. The PSC has the largest number of employees and was established as part of the wide ranging civil service reforms established under the Comprehensive Reform Program (CRP) in 1998. The CRP effectively replaced the former Department for Personnel with an independent commission. However, the board of the all the commissions are political appointments and, unlike other jurisdictions, the commissions in Vanuatu continue to hold the power to recruit and dismiss as this power was not devolved to the line ministries.
There have been two attempts to down size the civil service – one in 1994 and one in 1997. The first followed a civil service strike based around claims of corruption. The second was part of the CRP. Neither was particularly effective in terms of reducing overall numbers or increasing skills and conditions.
The Human Resource Development Unit within the PSC was transformed into the Vanuatu Institute of Public Administration and Management (VIPAM) in July 2012. It aims to provide training for mid to senior level public servants in all government ministries, departments and provinces throughout Vanuatu. In addition to responsibility for the overall policy direction of VIPAM, thePSC also has oversight for its development and management.


The Government of Vanuatu’s Priorities and Action Agenda for 2006 to 2015 for Good Governance and Public Sector Reform is reproduced as follows:

Good Governance and Public Sector Reform

Strengthening governance is recognised as a key challenge by all levels of government, civil society organisations and the private sector. Good Governance principles of accountability, transparency and predictability, and the rule of law are critical, but so is the participation of all sections of the community and stakeholders in policy formulation and development and policy implementation. The main initiatives to improve governance will involve sound public expenditure management, a stable policy direction, public sector reform, and ensuring that Vanuatu citizens can live in peace under the rule of law through strengthening of the legal sector institutions.

Existing reform efforts need to be deepened. This includes the Public Service Commission playing its independent role under the Constitution, acting impartially and transparently in managing the overall Public Service and carrying out Government decisions efficiently. It also includes strengthening accountability in managing the use of public funds in compliance with laws and regulations, and providing for a free flow of information on government programs and services to Members of Parliament, citizens, civil society and development partners. The free flow of information about government and its operations serves to increase accountability of leaders and government institutions.

Efforts to improve internal and external auditing of government accounts will continue to be pursued. Government will adequately resource the Auditor General’s Office using internationally recognised standards to effectively undertake its designated role to independently evaluate public service performance. Making sure that the leaders are accountable will be achieved through the implementation of the Leadership Code and proper resourcing of the Ombudsman’s office.

The strengthening of the Legal, Police and Prisons sectors will continue to be addressed through policies and effective strategies and resource allocation through a sector-wide approach that will foster local ownership. The newly established Prisons & Probation Department will contribute to this. The independence of the judiciary also needs to be strengthened.

Policy Objectives
Policy objectives for Good Governance are to:
1. Provide policy stability;
2. Provide stable institutions; and
3. Develop a productive public sector.

Providing Policy Stability
Providing policy stability involves managing public finances to improve service delivery and to reorient Government expenditure and aid donor resources to the priorities in this Plan, and to involve stakeholders in policy development and implementation.

The policies in this PAA are based on the CRP policies, the CRP matrix, the Business Forum matrix, and the Provincial REDI plans as well as the PAA prepared in 2003. These will be used to prepare Government’s Budget policies and Fiscal Strategy and will provide the overarching policy objectives for sector strategies and plans and ministry corporate plans.

The intention is that the Strategic Priorities, and the policies to achieve them, will be widely accepted so that priorities and policies remain in place despite changes in leadership. This would assist in decoupling political instability from policy stability. There is also a need to ensure that ownership of reforms spelt out in this document receive wide support in the community. This will be helped by continuing to engage all stakeholders in reform efforts including the Chamber of Commerce, civil society, and the use of the REDI as a model for community participation at a local level. This will include working towards a formal relationship with NGOs to work in partnership with Government to provide services.

In order to provide an implementation framework for the policies in this revised PAA, Government will prepare a Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). This will ensure effective linkages between policy and resource allocation. The MTEF will be based on a review of the Government’s expenditure by program and activity. To match the plan, resources will be allocated on a minimal 3-year time frame based on policy priorities in this Plan as well as other established plans such as the REDI Plans.

Priorities and Strategies
The priorities to secure policy stability are to:
1. Develop and adhere to a Medium Term Expenditure Framework to guide government expenditure and allocation of aid donor resources;
2. Review progress in implementation of the policies of this PAA at three yearly intervals and update the policies as necessary;
3. Engage stakeholders in policy formulation and implementation;
4. Formalise a partnership agreement between Government and NGOs concerning service delivery.

Performance Indicators
Performance in improving policy stability will be measured by monitoring service delivery in health and education; and monitoring the development and adherence to the MTEF.

Providing Stable Institutions
Stable institutions are crucial for successful policy implementation. Two issues are important. First, the alignment of Government ministries and departments to ensure that all are contributing to the role of the ministry and to national development policies. Ministries where roles and programs need to be revised include the Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Co-operative & Ni-Vanuatu Business, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, and Ministry of CRP.

The second issue is to continue to build capacity to provide institutions with better policy focus, structure, operating procedures, planning, budgeting and human resource capacity. Many Ministries and Constitutional Bodies have received generous funding assistance through Institutional Strengthening Projects (ISPs). Institutional strengthening of this nature will need to continue for the foreseeable future.

Of particular importance is to address the weaknesses that have been identified in the legal sector. Actions will be focused on the judiciary, the role of the Ombudsman’s Office and the three public legal offices of the Public Prosecutors office, the State Law Office and the Public Solicitors Office.

It is a priority for the Government to ensure that all Vanuatu citizens can exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms, and confidently participate in nation building. All citizens of Vanuatu will be guaranteed their political and social rights through various inter-linked mutually supportive policies, strategies and programs in this Plan.

Priorities and Strategies
The priorities to provide stable institutions are to:
1. Continue to strengthen the legal sectors with the support of external assistance;
2. Adequately resource the Auditor-General’s and Ombudsman’s office and other Constitutional Bodies to enable them to carry out their constitutional duties;
3. Strengthen the judiciary system by having adequate staff both locally and overseas such as international judges, to reduce the court backlog and contribute to the credibility of the courts;
4. Examine the options for the creation of a dispute settlement outside the current court system;
5. Strengthen the relationship between the Ombudsman, the Police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office;
6. Adjust legislation to allow for court prosecution relating to Ombudsman’s Reports.

Performance Indicators
Measuring the performance of achieving stable institutions is difficult. Indicators suggested are the timely production and examination of Auditor-Generals reports; reduced backlog of court cases; average length of service of legal officers.

Developing a Productive Public Sector
A healthy and committed Public Service working according to the principles of good governance is essential. This is to ensure all players in delivery of services are accountable, transparent with their actions and at the same time rewarded according to the level of their respective capacities and abilities.

The rational for public sector reforms was highlighted in the CRP document:

“The public sector needs to be adaptable to changing priorities and the changing expectations of the community…Performing these roles successfully will require that the public sector is prepared to transform itself. Political interference and frequent changes in staff in departments has been such that the morale of the Public Service has been seriously undermined. The lingering aftermath of the 1993 strike has further eroded public servants’ confidence and willingness to exercise leadership. The productivity of the service is generally poor. The people achieve little in their jobs. Rules and procedures are often not applied. The public service needs to develop a service oriented culture.”

In response to these problems legislative changes were made to ensure the independence of the public service, to clarify the roles of ministers and officials, and an ambitious Management Improvement Program was initiated across the public service. Reform of some state owned enterprises has been undertaken and some commercial activities have been corporatised. A generic concern for all of the public service has been recruitment and retention of appropriate skills for effective delivery of services. Notwithstanding the current budgetary problems, some of these concerns could be addressed by making the incentive structure of the public service more compatible with that of the marketplace.

The performance of the public service could be improved through better enforcement of existing disciplinary measures including a move towards more effective performance measurement.

Priorities and Strategies
Priorities for developing a productive public sector are to:

1. Continue to implement public service wide reforms including:
a Implementation of decisions of the Remuneration Tribunal;
b. Better enforcement of disciplinary measures for non-performance throughout the public sector;
2. Continue to corporatise State Owned Enterprises and rigorously enforce commercial
management and operational practices.

Performance Indicators
Indicators of achievement of the priorities will be remuneration levels of key skilled personnel in the public service; timely disciplinary action within the public service; SOE performance and privatisation


© Pacific Islands Centre for Public Administration