CODE OF CONDUCT FOR COOK ISLANDS

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AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (July 15, 2002 – Cook Islands News)---The Cook Islands is set to adopt the New Zealand code of conduct for politicians and heads of ministries, three years after a constitutional amendment provided for the establishment of a leadership code.

The code, which regulates the ethics and accountability of MPs and public servants, will be the first business of Parliament when it sits on August 6, according to a media release from the Office of the Prime Minister.

The decision to adopt the code was made by the Cabinet on Friday and was announced by Prime Minister Dr. Robert Woonton and Leader of the House Tupou Faireka. It will be looked at by a select committee when Parliament sits on July 29. The committee will make any necessary recommendations for the code to be adapted to the Cook Islands situation.

"It will make sure that politicians and HOMs (Heads of Ministries) polish up their image," Dr. Woonton said.

Approval for a leadership code was given in March 1999, under Constitution Amendment No 25 but no act has been passed since then. A recommendation in the report of the Commission of Political Review found that a majority of Cook Islanders surveyed in 1998 expressed the need for such a code.

The coalition (III) government led by Dr Terepai Maoate promised to have a code of conduct passed within six months of taking office in November 1999 but this did not take place.

There have been a number of investigations carried out on individual Members of Parliament over the past three year, including recent ones on Dr. Woonton, and the former Penrhyn MP, Tepure Tapaitau.

Some reports on investigations carried out by the Public Expenditure Review Committee have been tabled in Parliament since 1999 but have yet to be debated.

However, according to Dr. Woonton and Faireka, all outstanding papers -- including the PERC reports -- will be revived in the coming session. When Parliament adjourned in May, there were more than 40 papers, which still had not been discussed by the country's elected MPs.

PERC chairman Paul Lynch said late last week that reports on the use of the Social Responsibility Fund, administered by the Office of the Prime Minister, and one on Tapaitau relating to his employment as a Crown servant, had been forwarded to Parliament and are due to be tabled. Another case involving alleged bribery against Dr. Woonton was turned over to police. A decision not to press charges against Dr. Woonton was announced in late May. The complaint alleged the then Deputy Prime Minister had bribed Amuri/Ureia MP Paora Teiti to support the DAP/NAP coalition by approving taxpayer-paid airfares for Teiti and his wife to travel to New Zealand so the MP's wife could receive medical treatment.

On July 29 the current session of Parliament will be "prorogued" -- an ancient English term used to describe the final ending of a session. It means that there can be no further sitting of Parliament until it is called by the QR Frederick Goodwin.

It is expected that the 2002/2003 budget will be tabled on that day.

The August ceremonial opening of Parliament will be the first new session since 1999. Debate on the budget, the code of conduct, and the anticipated amendment to allow for a seventh minister from Parliament, is expected to be dealt with at the start of the new session.

Cook Islands politicians have been considering the introduction of a code of conduct for some time and one was drafted especially for the Cook Islands. However, it was considered deficient in some areas and it was decided that the New Zealand code would be more suitable, according to the release.

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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