HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 570:29 June 2011

News Briefs

Almost $80,000 back rents owed to CIIC
Nearly $80,000 in back rent is owed by tenants to the Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC), the government agency responsible for managing government owned properties.
Acting CEO of the CIIC Lloyd Miles recently provided Pitt Media Group with details of the rent owed and also details of earnings for the last financial year from properties.
The rent arrears are from the following;
Punanga Nui Market Hut Vendors $4,690
Residential Housing $36,422.84
(Tupapa-1, Tereora-2, Pokoinu-10)
Commercial properties (Avarua) $37,810.10
Total (as at 23 March 2011) $78,922.94
In the year ended 30 June 2010, the CIIC earned $325,189.29 from rents on residential properties.

Pukapuka nominations
On Tuesday Taggy Tangimetua the Chief ELectoral Officer advised the Herald that as of yesterday noon, the close of nominations of candidates, her office received 2 nominations. Tekii Lazaro for CIP and Vai Peua for Democratic. Voting Papers are being printed and she will issue a notice to advise on when Postal Voting and Voting In Advance will commence.

Government gives up VIP lounge
The Herald understands that recently the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which is responsible for Government’s VIP lounge at the Airport, has handed the lounge over to Air New Zealand. It is understood that the reason for giving up the VIP lounge was a cost savings measure.
However it is understood that this move has not pleased some government officials.

Putting the brakes on travel
To ensure all official overseas travel is justified, and promotes the proper and prudent use of government resources, Heads of Ministries and Crown Agencies must have their travel approved by the Minister on the advice of the Public Service Commissioner.
The “Heads of Ministries (HOM’s) Travel Policy” was issued on 6 April 2011 by the Office of the PSC (OPSC).
The new policy clamps down on overseas travel in the face of rising public concern and forces HOMs and Heads of Crown Agencies to justify their travel.
The policy is six pages long with six pages of appendices.
The highlights are;
-Travel details to be submitted to the PSC to verify and determine relevance.
-No expenditure to be committed until authorization given.
-All travel to be economy class except when accompanying a Minister, if flying time exceeds five hours non-stop or if a donor is paying for business class.
-No change to itinerary after Ministerial approval.
-No change to a lower class to enable family members to travel or to use difference in cost for personal benefit.
-All relevant travel documents to go to PSC five days before travel.
The policy also covers allowances to cover such items as accommodation, meals and incidentals.
For travel not funded by a donor, HOM’s are to receive a daily allowance as set down by the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat. The rate is calculated in NZ dollars depending on the country of destination.
Expenses not covered include;
-Work related telephone, internet use and printing and photocopying.
-Accommodation outside HOM’s control costing in excess of the amount allowed.
Reimbursements will be made for government funded expenses on presentation of receipts, signed off by the Finance Manager and approved by the PSC.
As regards Donor funded travel, the main guidelines are;
-Necessity, that is, is attendance necessary.
-Relevance of participation.
-Appropriateness, i.e. is the engagement within the direct function of the HOM/Ministry.
-Timing, especially in light of other national events/commitments.
No allowances are payable if travel is Donor funded.
By comparison, getting MPs to justify their travel will be nigh impossible.

Stage one of Avatiu wharf project to start next month
Ports Authority General Manager Bim Tou announced on Thursday that stage one of the NZ$24.2 million construction work on the Avatiu Port development will commence early next month.
Stage one is the building of 75 metres of the key alignment phase of the wharf.
He wishes to advise the general public that for safety and health reasons, access to the main wharf area will be restricted to port users only.
In stage one the southern area where the inter-island boats tie up will be occupied by the NZ contractor. This an area of 75 metres long and about 30 metres wide.
The inter-island area will now be the area 50 metres long between where the international vessels tie up and where Taio Shipping uses.
The Contractor will be putting steel sheeting into place and laying a new concrete surface. The work will not disrupt the cruise ships.
However, there will be a lot of noise created when the steel sheeting is hammered into place. It is expected to affect staff working in offices and other work places nearby.
The NZ contractor is bring 9 key people from NZ including some 25 machines on lease and local labour will be used as well as two local contractors Mike Rennie and CS Engineering.
During stage one shed no1 will be demolished.
Work will take place 6 days a week, 12 hour shifts from 6am-6pm.
There will be no disruption to traffic until the dredging phase begins in May next year.

Call to strengthen anti-corruption body
The little known Anti Corruption Committee (ACC) lacks resources and a clear mandate
The general public may not be aware of or familiar with the existence and work of the ACC-“Anti Corruption Committee.”
A report on the ACC is set out in the 3rd Quarter report of the Audit Office, 1 January 2011-31 March 2011 tabled in parliament at the last session in April 2011.
This committee was established under statute and its formation approved by Cabinet. Its five members are;
Audit Office-Auditor General
Crown Law-Solicitor General
Ombudsman Office-Ombudsman
Financial Intelligence Unit-Head
Police-Police Commissioner.
The ACC has no legal basis and operates in an informal environment that brings the heads of the ACC together through a mutual arrangement.
Its main function is to provide integrity in the public service through the key agencies responsible for prevention, investigation and prosecution. Collectively, the ACC acts as a watch dog to deter corruption activities and promote accountability and transparency.
The report on the ACC says the level and complexity of corruption in the Cook Islands is relatively small scale on a per capita basis however, the country is not free from external threats through the financial institutions as assets management and protection offshore banking that operate and flourish here.
Main challenges faced
These include;
-Lack of financial and human resources and no clear mandate.
-No lead agency to spearhead the fight against corruption both within government and civil society. A proposal is to consider an agency such as an Independent Commission against Corruption.
-No effective efforts to raise public awareness through education and training programmes.
-Lack of a generic code of conduct for senior officials and a leadership code for MPs with penalties.
-Need to become a full member and ratify the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).
Key matters to consider
These include;
-Implementing some legal basis and statutory framework for the ACC with specific terms of reference, functions and responsibilities, powers and adequate funding.
-Carrying out systematic training and awareness educational programmes in the community such as schools and NGOs.
-Training and awareness for MPs and senior government executives.
-Seek government endorsement to increase budget allocations for law enforcement agencies and ACC member’s agencies.
-establish ethical and leadership codes of conduct for MPs, senior executives and officials.
-Request “Transparency International” to conduct a survey to gauge the level and state of corruption in the country.
-Attain full membership into UNCAC.

Tissuegate’ laughed off
How is it possible for the purchase of 18,960 rolls of toilet tissue worth over $25,000 to become messy?
When someone complains about it.
While hundreds enjoyed the spectacle provided by the Pacific Mini Games in September 2009, others were upset at the toilet paper provided for the Games.
The purchase of the toilet paper was left late, the bio-degradable type was not purchased and there were some deviations from policy on the part of the organizers. All this resulted in a complaint by a member of the public to the Audit Office, who mounted an investigation.
Audit’s findings were completed in January 2011 and tabled in Parliament at the last sitting in April.
Audit found that of the four suppliers contacted, Manea Foods, Pacific Supplies, Pacific Hygiene Ltd NZ and CITC, although CITC had the higher quote, they were the preferred supplier.
CITC were preferred because as part of the sponsorship agreement between the PMG organizers and CITC, the PMG organizers would favour placing orders for supplies with CITC having regard to the price, terms and conditions of supply, and the ability of CITC to provide such supply on a timely basis.
CITC’s ability to supply toilet paper within a limited time frame was a critical factor.
CITC was unable to source bio-degradable toilet tissues because of time constraints.
Not all the toilet paper was used and CITC actually “bought back” 161 cartons (Some 395 cartons were supplied).
The matter, “Tissuegate” resulted in six recommendations being made to a Minister of the Crown, the PSC, the Acting Financial secretary and the Solicitor General.
There were stern warnings of failures resulting in possible disciplinary action.
In his response to the Audit findings, the PMG CEO Mac Mokoroa said in his letter of 11 January 2011 to the Audit Office that many people actually laughed at the matter as it dealt with toilet paper.

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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