PORT VILA, 11 NOVEMBER 2019 (VANUATU DAILY PST) — Government ministers and even the Prime Minister have no power to change or quash the decision of the Commissioner of Labour on work permits application appeal, since the Labour (Work Permits) Act was amended in 2018.

They do not have the ministerial power to override or have any influence over the appeal committee regarding work permits.

Minister of Internal Affairs, Andrew Napuat made the clarification to the Daily Post newspaper.

Minister Napuat said the roles of Labour Commissioner and an independent appeal committee have been clarified and further strengthened so that there are no more ministerial powers and references when it comes to work permit applications or appeals as this is a technical role that should fall under the technical government officials to scrutinise and make decisions on.

“Before the new Work Permit Amendment was passed in Parliament last year, previous ministers of Internal Affairs had the ministerial power over the appeal, meaning ministers had the power and the right to receive an appeal and act upon,” he explained.

“When this practice and provision existed in the past, it provided room for Ministers to receive bribes for quashing or varying decisions of the Labour Commissioner. In an operation conducted last year by the Ministry of Internal Affairs to clamp down on illegal immigrants, overstayers, illegal work permits, we identified that many foreigners had work permits that did not meet the standard required by law for minister to grant them work permits.

“This raised doubts as to whether the ministers were quashing the decision of labour commissioner on merit or because of bribes. This is basically why the new amendment to work permits act was done in order to avoid the bribing of officials and therefore give the power to the designated qualified officials like the Commissioner of Labour to make decision on work permits on its merit.

“If the applicant is not happy after the refusal, they should appeal to another independent committee to review the Commissioner of Labour’s decision on its proper merits and terms then make a final decision. The Minister no longer has any ministerial power of work permits as far as the work permit amendment act of 2018 is concerned.”

Minister Napuat stressed he has no power to grant work permit to any foreigner whose work permit has expired and lodge an appeal.

“The practice of a Minister of Internal Affairs granting work permits to foreigners ceased when the amendment was passed by Parliament and came into effect after being gazetted. Daily Post Founder Marc Neil Jones has called upon me to grant the work permit renewal for Media Director, Dan McGarry, unfortunately the Work Permit Act only gives power to the Commissioner of Labour and the appeal committee either to renew a Work Permit,” he said.

He said McGarry had been served for holding office despite knowing that his temporary work permit had expired on the 30 September.

With the Work Permit Act Amendment in 2018, there were further consequential amendments done to the Immigration Act. No 17 of 2010 on visas to reflect the decisions on work permits.

“The New Immigration Act No. 17 of 2018 49 (A) on the Automatic cancellation of Residence Visa stipulates that a residence visa granted to a person under this Act is automatically cancelled if: a) the work permit granted to the person under the Labour (Work Permits) Act [CAP 187] has been revoked by the Commissioner of Labour and b) the person has been unsuccessful in his or her appeal under the Act,” the minister said.

“According to section 10, subsection 5G (1A) of this Act, the ‘Commissioner of Labour may revoke a work permit if he or she is satisfied that, the holder of the work permit: (a) has failed to train a citizen worker; or (b) has failed to comply with any condition of the work permit; or (c) is mistreating other employees he or she is working with’.”

The Appeals Committee which consists of the following members: (a) the Director General of the Ministry of Internal Affairs; and (b) the Chief Executive Officer of the Vanuatu Investment and Promotion Authority; and (c) the Director of Immigration Services; and

(d) A person nominated by the Judicial Service Commission will hear McGarry’s case soon. (PACNEWS)