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RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, November 25) – Former Cook Islands ombudsman Andrew Turua is holding onto a government car belonging to the office for rent allegedly owed to him by government.

The office rents a space at the Uritaua meeting house at Avatiu valley at $200 a month and Turua is the landlord.

He is currently out of the country.

Janet Maki, the country's first woman ombudsman, who officially replaced Turua this month, started at the office this week but despite the "deplorable" state of her office she is happy with her new appointment.

"There is no government car for this office because Andrew (Turua) has decided to keep it because he claims some money is allegedly owed to him in rent but that is not priority for me right now. My priority is to get this office up and running from a new venue," she said. "We are moving to a new location in town behind the DIB and next door to the superannuation office. After our move in two weeks I will seek advice from crown law on what the position is with this vehicle. That is a state asset."

The former solicitor general travels to work now on her personal motor bike and has bought a personal laptop computer for her office since the only computer is used by her secretary.

"The place is a far cry from the office I have enjoyed for the last 13 years in crown law but I am not complaining. This is a challenge and I have no regrets at all about moving here," she said. "We have sorted out the stuff in this office and I am told that what I have as an ombudsman are a bookshelf, a table, three armchairs, a filing cabinet and only these six books. The rest belongs to Andrew. I've asked for an audit of what's there and I am happy with that. At least I will have a clean slate to start with. That's all I want a clean start because I want to build up this office and definitely improve its standing. I have to start from somewhere and if I have to start from scratch I will take up the challenge."

Maki said that since her appointment she had not met with her predecessor nor was there any transition period for a handover.

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