The Government through the recently established National Project Coordination Committee (NPCC), co-chaired by the Minister for Finance and his colleague Minister for Public Utilities, has officially delegated the responsibility for implementation of the country’s new Hall of Justice (HoJ) project to the Vanuatu Project Management Unit (VPMU).

The decision was reached on February 5th 2021 at the committee’s inaugural meeting to try and expedite implementation of a project that has taken about 14 years to realize.

Since the burning down of the Court house in 2007, the seat of the Vanuatu judiciary has not settled, so to speak. They have had to shift courtrooms around a fair bit, from their current premises opposite the Sainte Jeanne d’Arc French school in Port Vila, to Dumbea, and even to The Mall – opposite the VNPF building in town. As such it has not been easy for the judiciary to administrate justice. 

Arsonists had burnt the colonial era building to the ground on June 27th 2007. Since then various governments have tried to address the concerns of the judiciary without much success – largely due to the high costs involved and the government’s own budgetary constraints. It meant that the Government has had to look to its bilateral friends for assistance. And it had to be strategic. The judiciary – being the third arm of government regarded its independence as paramount. As such Governments have maintained that no single donor could fund the project.

It wasn’t until 2019 when Council of Ministers finally agreed on moving the project forward with support from two of its traditional donor partners - Australia and New Zealand. 

The same Council of Ministers also approved two Government ministries as lead agencies with responsibility for delivery of the project. They were the Ministry of Justice and Community Services (MoJCS) and Infrastructure and Public Utilities (MIPU). 

But more than a year has gone by without any further developments– forcing the National Project Coordinating Committee (NPCC) – recently established to try and fast-track well over 20 Government projects that seemed to have stalled, to reconsider the implementing arrangements. 

The decision of NPCC effectively put an end to the previous implementation arrangement – handing the project over to VPMU to oversight and manage. A COM paper was needed to approve the new arrangements to allow VPMU to be the implementing agency. 

The Ministry of Justice retains its role as lead implementation ministry in the project. 

The Hall of Justice (HoJ) project is co-funded by the Governments of Vanuatu, New Zealand and Australia for an agreed amount VT1.2 billion. The Government’s contribution to the project is Vt600 million while Australia and New Zealand are sharing the cost of the remaining balance.

Since February, VPMU has initiated talks with partners and we’re hopeful the project can commence implementation this year.