COOK ISLANDS GOVERNMENT TO SAVE SPORTS

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National Olympic Committee over $600,000 in debt

By Rosie Manins RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Dec. 21, 2011) – Government is committed to Cook Islands sport and will do what is necessary to ensure CISNOC maintains its relationship with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), finance and sport minister Mark Brown says.

This week the Cook Islands Sports and National Olympic Committee (CISNOC) finally revealed the status of its finances.

The insolvent organization needs up to $800,000 [US$616,688] to pay its debt, send a Cook Islands delegation to next years Olympic Games in London and maintain normal operations until the end of this financial year June 30, 2012.

In its bank accounts is $15,540 [US$11,979] of available money.

Therefore, a government bail-out looks likely.

[PIR editor’s note: A detailed breakdown of CISNOC’s expenses and valuations is available here and includes total assets and standing liabilities. Committee members, while acknowledging the insolvency of the current situation, have said that change, if desired by the organization, can be made in order to further assist in saving the Olympics Committee.]

Brown says government is not yet able to make final decisions about how to help CISNOC and at what cost.

He says financial secretary Richard Neves and Prime Minister Henry Puna are currently considering the dilemma.

Regardless of the form in which governments support of CISNOC takes, Brown says government has committed to the organizations continued operation.

"The government has made a commitment that CISNOC and its relationship with the IOC is one that we cherish and are committed to maintaining. The Cook Islands gets over $1 million per year in terms of financial support from the Olympic Solidarity fund, Commonwealth Games fund and a series of international and regional sports bodies."

"Our (government) contribution is $160,000 [US$123,388] generated by Tattslotto and we don’t want to jeopardize any of that by making any rash moves. If that means we need to put in place some financial support or financial management measures to ensure that relationship remains firm, that’s certainly at the top of the priority list."

The IOC and its relevant regional body the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) have apparently sent a letter of support to CISNOC, agreeing to allow the organization to continue operating despite its financial disclosure and attempt to find a solution.

Brown says he is waiting to receive reports from Neves and the prime minister in respect of CISNOC, as both are working with the organization to develop options for its financial recovery.

There is also the issue of missing 2009 Pacific Mini Games per diems and whether CISNOC owes further money accordingly to be sorted out, Brown says.

Final reports on the per diems issue will be available next month, he says.

"What I’m looking at is the full picture, so that when we do put in place some measures we make sure we fix this once and for all rather than do stop-gap measures here and there."

Asked whether government can order CISNOCs current executives to resign or be replaced, Brown says government has no authority to interfere with the organization in such a way, as set out by its own constitution and those of the IOC and ONOC.

"Government has no authority to tell them what to do. As far as the executives are concerned, that’s a matter for the membership."

The positioning of Neves and internal affairs secretary Bredina Drollet as advisors to and overseers of CISNOC regarding its finances has given government some comfort.

"We are on the right track we are moving in the right direction. I’m hopeful that come the new year well be able to have a number of issues resolved and will be able to put some directions in place."

Brown says fundamentally sport has an economic value as well as a strong social value in the Cook Islands.

It is an essential component of healthy lifestyles, and therefore is of great importance given current problems with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, Brown says.

He says the extent of CISNOCs fiscal problems has not really come as a surprise, and government is committed to helping the organization for the benefit of national sport codes and federations as well as sport in general throughout the country.

I want to make sure that the codes and national federations that were to receive funding or have funds committed to them, that funding is assured. Once we get a good idea of where we are in terms of the figures and how much we need to fix CISNOC’s problems, that will be put into the supplementary budget process and be considered in light of other priorities government has.

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