MPs’ pay: Official Information request for reasons for rise

Saturday July 06, 2019 Written by Published in Politics

Twenty working days for government to justify 45 per cent pay rise – or face formal complaint.

The Remuneration Tribunal has been formally asked to disclose its politicians’ pay-rise report, in accordance with the Official Information Act 2008.

MPs awarded themselves a massive 45 per cent increase in pay on the strength of the report – but have refused to make the report’s contents public.

The Official Information Act has been used only rarely since it was passed into law a decade ago, and is a last resort when government agencies refuse to disclose information in the public interest.

The Cook Islands News sent the request to Tribunal chairman Fletcher Melvin and copied it to Clerk of Parliament Tangata Vainerere, who acted as its secretariat, on June 28. The other members were Antony Will and Makiroa Mitchell-John.

In acknowledging the request, Melvin replied “I am new to this process so I will need to check with Parliamentary Services to see that we comply with the Act.”

The request was after repeated requests for the report were refused by the tribunal, government and parliament.

The unpopular pay rise was made by the Executive Council based on the recommendations from the tribunal report.

Vainerere said under the provisions of the Official Information Act, Melvin had 20 working days to provide the information – or provide a reason why not.

Reasons for refusing to disclose information may include jeopardising national security, or undermining criminal proceedings against somebody involved.

Vainerere copied the request to Solicitor-General Stuart Baker, requesting his services to advise the Tribunal on this matter.

If the Tribunal fails to comply with the statutory request, the newspaper may lay a complaint with the Ombudsman, who must then review the Tribunal’s decision.

The Tribunal took into account the increase in salaries of senior public servants, the consumer price index and the state of the economy over the years before recommending the pay rise.

The 45 per cent pay rise for MPs was calculated as an average 2.9 per cent a year since their last salary increase in 2006.

The taxpayers will pay an extra $700,000 a year to meet this massive salary increase which came into effect on July 1.

The increase will see the prime minister’s salary rise from $105,000 to $152,250, and the deputy prime minister’s earnings increase from $95,000 to $137,750.

Cabinet ministers, the Speaker of Parliament and the leader of the opposition, who are sitting on $85,000 each, will have their salaries jump to $123,250.

The remaining MPs’ $50,000 base salaries will increase to $72,500, with additional allowances for those like the deputy speaker with extra responsibilities. The Queen’s Representative, who is paid under the Civil List Act 2005, will also receive a pay rise.

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