"BLATANT DISREGARD FOR PROPER PROCEDURES" CHARGED IN COOK ISLANDS

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By Florence Syme-Buchanan

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (December 23, 1999 – Cook Islands News)---The outgoing government made seven controversial decisions, which the Public Expenditure Review Committee considers to display "the most blatant disregard for proper procedures and public accountability of all matters" it has ever dealt with."

DECISIONS

The decisions involved:

(NOTE: All dollar amounts are in New Zealand dollars. On January 3, 2000, NZ$ 0.5239 = US$ 1.00)

THE LAW

No Cabinet is above the law, states the PERC report.

PERC notes that the Financial Secretary believes the method in which Tepure Tapaitau was to finance his vehicle "is very likely illegal in terms of the Ministry and Finance Economic Management Act."

ODDITIES

PERC said there were many oddities contained in Tapaitau's purchase proposition, such as:

PERC noted that the Financial Secretary requested the Commissioner of Police to arrange for the vehicle to be repossessed. However, this was not done.

The sale of the three vehicles was done without any tendering process and that "transparency and contestability were therefore completely avoided."

The transfer of the red car to the Opposition office had no legal basis -- "there is no statutory provision for that office to be provided with a government vehicle."

The retirement of the Cabinet Secretary and the increase in salary for the Numismatic Manager should have been dealt with by the Public Service Commissioner.

NO PROVISION

There is no provision in the Civil List for the payment of Dr. Joe Williams' and Sir Geoffrey's medical treatment.

Persons requiring medical treatment in New Zealand have to go through a referral system.

The provision in the Cabinet minute of accommodation and entertainment for Williams appeared to be "utterly inappropriate" for someone requiring medical treatment and who has a home in New Zealand. There was also no indication of how the costs were arrived at.

"Of all the Cabinet minutes (among the seven) this one is probably the most flagrant in its mockery of accountability in the expenditure of public money," stated PERC.

Williams subsequently went public, saying he had declined the accommodation and entertainment allowances and these had been set by Parliament as a matter of routine for overseas ministerial travel.

Steps taken by the Cabinet of the coalition government to rescind or freeze the various decisions were to some extent "ineffective in that the vehicles concerned have already changed hands and the recipients have not indicated any enthusiasm for returning them."

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands News Online.

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