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ABOUT THE URA

WHO WE ARE

The Utilities Regulatory Authority (URA) of Vanuatu was established on 11 February 2008 under the Utilities Regulatory Act No. 11 of 2007.

URA is an initiative of the Vanuatu Government, with additional financial support from AusAID through the Governance for Growth (GfG) Program in cooperation with the World Bank.

The URA Act establishes the URA as an independent body acting as a mediator between the Government and public utilities.

A Commission comprising three people makes the decisions: Chairperson Johnson Naviti, Part-Time Commissioner John Obed Allilee and Part-Time Commissioner & Chief Executive Officer Dr. Hasso Bhatia

The Ministry of Finance appoints the Commissioners based on nominations from an Evaluation Committee. Qualification for this appointment is based on their knowledge and experience in the electricity and water sectors, as well as in commerce, economics, law and public administration.

Chief Executive Officer and Part-Time Commissioner - Dr. Hasso Bhatia

Dr. Bhatia was appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Utilities Regulatory Authority in October 2013. . He has solid experience and background in all aspects of electricity, water and gas utility management and economic regulation including cost of service and rate of return analysis, utility accounting systems, financial analysis and consumer protection. He holds a PhD in Mathematics from Michigan State University, an M.S degree in Mathematics and Operations Research and a B.S. degree from University of Delhi, India.

Dr. Bhatia also specializes in Energy Efficiency program design, development and demand side management. As Director of Energy Efficiency and Incentives Division with the Public Utilities Commission in Michigan, he developed and implemented several utility and consumer incentive programs to promote efficiencies in the residential, commercial and industrial usage.

As Director of Technical Services Division at PUC in Michigan, Dr. Bhatia has successfully negotiated several large scale Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) involving power from combined cycle gas IPP projects. He has testified successfully as expert witness in major arbitrations involving PPA disputes. Also, he was the first who showed the validity of the use of modern tracking apps to provide the security. Dr. Bhatia has been a project manager to investigate the Management Prudency and Cost-overruns in the Construction of large scale nuclear projects in Michigan and Ohio. As Team Leader, Dr Bhatia has performed studies on promoting Hydropower Development under Public Private Partnership in Nepal.

Dr Bhatia has held various leadership positions in utility and infrastructure management and regulation within the United States of America, in Eastern Europe, former Soviet Republics, Central Asia and South Asia.

Chairperson - Johnson Naviti Matarulapa Marakipule

Johnson Naviti was appointed to the role of Chairperson and part-time non-executive Commissioner in October 2008. He joined the Aid Coordination Unit of the Prime Minister Office where he is currently the head.

Mr. Naviti has been the principal implementator of the program for the Pacific Islands Forum Secretarial based in Fiji from 2002 to 2008 and worked for the government of Vanuatu from 1996 to 2001 as an analyst in the sector, including Acting Director Economic Development and the Industry.

He holds a Bachelors Degree in Resource and Environmental Planning from Massey University, in New Zealand.

Part Time Executive Commissioner - John OBED Alilee

Mr. John OBED was appointed to the position of Part-Time Executive Commissioner on 1 August 2014. He is the Registrar of the Supreme Court since 2002 and Secretary of the Judicial Service Commission since 2003. Prior to that, Mr. Obed worked as the Lay Migistrate in both Judicial and Administrative roles.

Before joining the Vanuatu courts, he was in the teaching in the teaching arena as Principal of Matevulu Colleae from 1998 to 2000.

Mr. OBED has a Master of Business Administration, a Postgraduate Certificate in Human Resource Management from the University of the South Pacific. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts from the Wellington University of Victoria in Zew Zealand. He is a member of several committees in country and the Government of Vanuatu. Mr. OBED was appointed as part of statutory recruitment for a Regulator for the Office of Telecommunication and Radiocommunications Regulator in 2013 and recruitment for Director General of the Public Services Commission in 2011.

He is a trained Judicial Educator and has a Mediator Certificate by LEADR, Australia.


 

WHAT WE DO

URA only regulates the electricity and water industries. The main objectives of the URA, according to the URA Act, are:

1. To ensure the provision of safe, reliable and affordable regulated services

2. To maximise access to regulated services throughout Vanuatu.

3. To protect the long-term interests of consumers.

These objectives are central to the framework of economic regulation that facilitates efficiency and financial viability in regulated industries, prevents misuse of monopoly power and ensures that customers benefit from the gains of economic regulation and efficiency.

The URA Act also lists a number of URA functions:

  • to provide advice, reports and recommendations to the Government relating to utilities;
  • to inform the public of matters relating to utilities;
  • to assist consumers to resolve grievances;
  • to investigate and act upon offences under this Act;
  • when requested by the Minister to do so, to conduct an inquiry into any systemic reliability of supply issues related to a regulated industry or other regulated service specified by the Minister in the request;
  • to conduct public education programs for the purpose of promoting its objectives under the Act and the relevant legislation and in relation to significant changes in the regulation of a regulated industry;
  • to advise the Minister on any other matter referred to the Authority by the Minister; and
  • to administer and monitor compliance of Concession Agreements under the Act.

 


 

HOW WE WORK

The CEO manages the URA staff, which is composed of the Manager Regulation, 8 local technical staff, 4 administrative staff and 2 expatriate technical advisors with background in finance/economics/legal/accounting and experience in economic regulation providing support to the local team.

The Commission meets in a formal session each quarter. The decisions are informed by staff papers and formal oral briefings. When a Commission decision is made, a minute is created and approved. Where appropriate, the Commission decision is confirmed by appropriately sealed documents.

Before the Commission issues a Final Decision and Commission Order, URA goes through comprehensive consultation process to allow stakeholders to provide feedback on their Preliminary Decision. Submissions received are considered before a Final Decision and Order is made. See the Consultation section for more information on this process.