The audit office is investigating the Corrective Services minister’s top advisor getting a high-risk offender released from prison to work for his tourism business.
Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown told Parliament there was an investigation into “a possible conflict of interest” involving the chief executive officer of the minister’s support office.
The Office of the Public Expenditure Review Committee and Audit is also investigating issues in the energy division of the Penrhyn Island Administration, and in the Ministry for Justice.
“All these are undergoing their own processes and I have no doubt that very shortly when they have completed their investigation, their report will be submitted to Parliament,” Brown said.
Terry Rangi, who is chief executive officer to George Maggie, confirmed he was under investigation. He is also presently before the courts for allegedly refusing a police drink-drive test – a charge he denies.
“I understand the allegation is regarding an inmate I hired through the prison work scheme. The work scheme is available to anyone and he was the only person who had the skill that I required,” Rangi said.
Cook Islands News reported last year that Ngaa Kitai Taria Pureariki, jailed for killing his 9-year-old grandson, was being allowed out each day to run The Umu Experience.
Taria and Rangi were co-owners of the business.
Rangi said: “Most of the other inmates specialise in community-type work like cutting trees, hedges, grass but this particular person works in the cultural background and he was the only one fit for the job I had.
“The audit office asked me why I requested this person and I explained he was the one who had the skill I needed. If somebody else in prison had that skills I would have certainly got that person. The whole investigation is a complete nonsense.”
Rangi said the fact he worked for the Minister of Corrective Services was “completely irrelevant”.
“I work for his support office, I manage his office. I don’t advise him, he makes his own decisions and has his own advisers.
“All I do is look after his office and his reports and Cabinet submissions. I wasn’t involved in the decision making regarding the work scheme – there are other people who do that.
“Also I have other work apart from working for minister. By day I work for him and by night I have my business to take care of.”
Taria was recalled to prison last year, after publicity about his work release.