5 Dec 2006

Vanuatu government appoints commissioner over suspended Lugainville Council,

12:20 pm on 5 December 2006

Vanuatu's Minister for Internal Affairs says he's appointed a commissioner for 12 months to recover finances misappropriated by the suspended Luganville Municipal Council.

George Wells says he has suspended the entire Council for the second time in a year because the Councillors failed to recover funds which appeared outstanding in a 2005 audit of its accounts.

The first suspension, earlier this year, was overturned in court, but Mr Wells says the latest came as a last resort, because despite giving them time to address the situation, it was going from bad to worse.

He says the suspended Councillors never controlled their expenses and never collected outstanding property taxes.

"But they spend more than what they collect. The money is so politicised that you can hardly see any new development in Lugainville town. You wonder where all the taxpayer money goes.. you wonder. They go to travel - overseas travel and domestic travel: Vila-Santo, Vila-Santo, Vila-Santo... And each amount of bills left in the hotels, restaurants and etc... It's too much."

Meanwhile, the suspended Councillors have been barred from entering the Council building by paramilitary police.