The figure was contained in the half-year economic and fiscal update, published last month. But George insists that there is no way Hagai was entitled to the money and says he is “dismayed and disturbed” by the disclosure and the government’s “openly fake explanations” for the payment.
The official report says the money was paid to enable the MP for Rakahanga to “reside in Rarotonga and carry out the functions of government whip”.
It explains: “This position is not recognised as eligible for housing allowance in the existing Remuneration Tribunal Order 2009. Government has provided the support to allow him to carry out his responsibilities here in Rarotonga.”
However, George blasted the government and accused it of bending the rules to suit its supporters.
“The office of whip in the Cook Islands is not a paid one because they only work when parliament sits,” he says. “If parliament sits for seven days in the year that is the only time he needs to work.
“His duties include ensuring that the government quorum is maintained while parliament sits, to ensure punctuality and to inform caucus of in-house government MP meetings whenever the PM calls one.
“When parliament adjourns, that ends his duties. We do not have a pairing system, so MPs do not need to see the whip for pairing arrangements when MPs travel when parliament is adjourned.
“There is absolutely no justification for the state to pay this man’s rent.”
He accused the CIP Government of treating the electorate as “blind and stupid” and “spitting out false news”.
He also attacked Hagai, accusing him of “sponging” off taxpayers.
“Why did he stand for parliament when he can’t afford to pay his own rent?” he said. “What is next? Government to pay his monthly mortgage payments?”