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Conflict of interest issues need real work

Wednesday December 30, 2015 Written by Published in Local

This year more than $100,000 of taxpayer’s dollars has been given to companies with a clear conflict of interest with government agencies, and Public Service Commissioner Russell Thomas says it highlights deficiencies in the application of government procedures.


CI News has recently reported on Public Expenditure Review Committee (PERC) reports into both the Cook Islands Pearl Authority (CIPA) and the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR), who both awarded contracts to companies with clear connections to the government agencies.

CIPA awarded a marketing contract worth $70,000 to Style Pasifika, directed by Stan Wolfgramm – the brother of Alexis Wolfgramm, who was working as a marketing advisor for the pearl authority.

And late last year MMR awarded an IT contract worth more than $40,000 to D and A Solutions – directed by Dion Wigmore, the IT manager for Marine Resources.

Meanwhile, PERC also criticised the government’s decision to advance $200,000 to Pacific Schooners Limited for the Tiare Taporo vessel during Te Maeva Nui Celebrations – PERC said the advance was well beyond what was appropriate.

Public Service Commissioner Russell Thomas said Cook Islands government procurement processes are transparent and guide decision-making in relations to awarding contracts.

“The PERC reports highlight deficiencies in the application of these procedures and processes, particularly regarding conflict of interest.

“Disciplinary measures were taken relating to the MMR report by both the Public Service Commissioner and the Secretary of MMR.”

The Cook Islands Pearl Authority reports to a board and minister – not the Public Service Commissioner.

Action planned to be taken by the Public Service Commissioner in future includes training and awareness programmes on public service values and a code of conduct.        

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