Cook Islands News revealed this week that the Public Service Commissioner was investigating Charlie-Puna’s expenditure of public funds on a ministry function at the Edgewater resort.
Charlie-Puna has been stood down from her role, on full pay, as she is investigated.
Tapaitau has now disclosed there was more than one meeting that is being investigated.
Cook Islands News yesterday highlighted Tapaitau’s refusal to comment, and to say whether he knew about the dinner, authorised the dinner, or was present at the dinner.
A few hours later, he issued the newspaper a statement: “My office is fully supportive of Diane-Charlie Puna as the Head of Ministry for Infrastructure Cook Islands,” he said.
He hadn’t commented any earlier, he added, because it was important the Office of the Public Service Commission was given the opportunity to complete its review with the Minister’s full cooperation.
“I am confident Diane will be reinstated as the issues raised regarding expenditure relate to meetings that my office initiated for discussions relating to infrastructure projects forward planning and other operational matters,” said Tapaitau.
The meetings were to discuss intrastructure projects, forward-planning and other operational matters to enable the projects’ timely delivery.
The progress on infrastructure projects around Rarotonga, he said, “speaks volumes of Diane’s capability and leadership”.
Charlie-Pune is taking legal advice to defend her position, ahead of the findings of the Commissioner’s inquiry.