$400 a day pay OK, says OPM

Tuesday April 19, 2016 Written by Published in Politics

The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has defended the payment of $400 a day to a local consultant because she is providing “a service that we are happy with”, says chief of staff Elizabeth Wright-Koteka.


Hiring a consultant became necessary for the OPM when it failed to attract “the right calibre” local for the twice-advertised position of Senior Policy Planner. The annual salary for that position was $45,000 to $55,000.

“When the job was advertised, the response was not great,” explained Wright-Koteka in emailed responses to questions from CI News. 

“The top applicant was an Australian with local applicants not having the relevant qualifications or experience.”

Wright-Koteka says finding suitable local applicants in this area is “rather restricted and the salary is not attractive to those who could fulfil the role.”

She confirmed the OPM was reluctant to give the job to a foreigner.

Hiring former National Superannuation chief executive Anne Herman on $2000 a week for a total of 60 days is justified because she’s qualified and has a proven track record, says Wright-Koteka. Herman holds a MBA from the University of the South Pacific and Bachelor degree in Economics and Commercial law from Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.

“Our preference would have been to get a permanent officer but we have not been able to attract the right person into the role.,” says Wright-Koteka.

“There are certain policies and planning frameworks that need to be completed before the end of this financial year and Anne can assist us in this regard.”

Because OPM couldn’t fill the advertised policy planner job, Herman was awarded the consultancy valued at $24,000 to “progress and complete some key tasks” in the OPM central policy and planning office, says Wright-Koteka.

She adds, because the consultancy service is valued at below $30,000 it didn’t need to be publicly tendered.

“Instead we used the government-registered consultant panel information to make our decision.”

Wright-Koteka says international consultants average around $2000 a day and local consultants’ rates usually range from $350 to $1200 a day. Herman’s rate is regarded as “competitive” by the OPM.

The office has engaged three local consultants and an international team which has two Cook Islanders. International consultancies are paid from external funding.

The chief of staff disclosed that the OPM “manages a number of contracts involving both local and international consultants” all serving “different purposes, timeframes and require different technical skills”.

“Some of these consultants are paid a lot more than Ms Herman.”

According to Wright-Koteka it’s normal for consultants to get paid higher than salaried staff.  “You are essentially paying for a specific skill or job to be completed in a certain timeframe.  Consultants don’t have the same job security as permanent staff. When a consultancy is done, they will need to find new work.”

Herman will work in the OPM central planning and policy office providing support and “back stopping” for the division.

Wright-Koteka says the office has two fulltime staff who are finding it difficult fulfil all their responsibilities with the increased demand to provide policy and planning support across government. Herman has also been tasked with providing training. Wright-Koteka isn’t impressed that criticism has been levelled at the rate the OPM is paying Herman, saying it is “disappointing that once again, if it’s our own people, we tend to complain.

“…Maybe it is jealousy or miscomprehension by some people. This is sad and perhaps this is one of the reasons why our own qualified people would rather move overseas, where they can be better appreciated.”      


  • Comment Link Angai T Rima Saturday, 23 April 2016 15:56 posted by Angai T Rima

    I like Mrs koteka's view that we as Cook Island look down at our own getting a Job destined to foreigners. She's right it's seems to be the only thing we are good at. Support is required here one day it's gonna be one of your tamariki in the spotlight what then. Congrats to Anne Herman, there I said it one for all the Cook Island tamariki out there.

  • Comment Link Tr@v@ll.l.p Friday, 22 April 2016 22:19 posted by Tr@v@ll.l.p

    How the hell does that work..my starting rate is $7.00 an hour. I work 80hrs a fortnight and sometimes even over 100hrs a fortnightyeah.and its that time people go moe im working.they wake up im going moe.after i the pays bills i only get about $50-$20 to last the next fortnight. Now what you can actually do for us e Henry Puna is pay the people who actually bloody does work,sweats, stresses out a bloody decent price.. What do you think this $1.098 is a good pay rise. Really.i bet u the person who jus drives ur car get way more than us.and we screen bags and you will never understand when a bomb will come through and boom. U died with only $50-$20..what about the kids money.we pay tax. Why dont you guys increase there money. The life of a baby is more expensive..and no offence Henry Puna you are so unprofesional. Your dont wear our tav..eaa. have u always worn a tux all ur life..you should open your eyes and look at the QR.. he always looks smart. And so does his wife..always proud to see them two. Ko korua ra.nga mau'pu.. aere mai korua. Akama tikai au..Cant wait for you to get kicked out.. your just wasting money to go to meetings in business class and staying in hotels..eaa kare family on that side..ihhhhhh. te veta.

  • Comment Link Jason Tini Thursday, 21 April 2016 18:27 posted by Jason Tini

    Awesome that Anne Herman is getting paid that rate !!, good on her , she's qualified academically and experienced with years in the game , good on you cuzzie , now that being said and done all government need to do is realise that this is exactly what needs to happen in all the sectors of employment in the Cook Islands , tourism pay rates is terrible and that is exposing what I call dlave labour , tourism needs local faces and the front of house in rarotonga but more and more of our people who have qualifications and experience are looking abroad , why ??? You asked because our government have no clue what the real world is paying for basic job like waiters , bartenders , restaurant supervisor, chefs, food n beverage managers through out New Zealand and Australia ...a lot of us locals go overseas to earn $45k to $190k a year but still would love to return home but our government do not realise $6.50 an hour just doesn't pay enough......up the minimum wahge to experienced and qualified cook Islands and you will see a lot of us return home !!!...Anne Herman kia orana cuzzie your qualified and you have the experience so you should get paid what fee you choose to charge ...kia Orana kia Manuia

  • Comment Link Mike Williams Thursday, 21 April 2016 17:06 posted by Mike Williams

    Its ok to pay such money to a qualified n experienced local........BUT you are forgetting one vital error!Most of your workers are stil on the minimum wage.Now thats a slap in the face for all those that do not have such qualifications.

  • Comment Link Matilda Taruia Wednesday, 20 April 2016 22:01 posted by Matilda Taruia

    How does this happen, they go and put the starting rate at $6.50 for private sectors who work thier lives to a job they are good at and can barely make ends meat to provide for thier families. No pay rises and having to work two or three jobs. Instead of raising the minimun starting rate and dropping the tax rate no we go spend more money within the government dept on hiring someome at $400 a day.

    Cant beleive they would consider this.

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