Brown has responded through a letter to the editor (published in today’s Cook Islands News) to the question on whether Cook Islands Trading Corporation (CITC) Director Brian Mason’s appointment onto the Commerce Bill review committee and Telecommunications review committee constitutes a conflict of interest.
George wants to ask four cabinet members 27 questions once parliament reconvenes on December 3. However, the house speaker may not accept all of these. George gave copies to all MP’s when parliament sat on November 8 so they could prepare answers.
He has asked Brown – “Is the minister aware that Mr Brian Mason, also recently from the off-shore tax industry, has admitted to being appointed a director of CITC in which position he would be obliged to advance CITC’s business interests – and that the minister was aware of this fact when he engaged Mr Mason on two tasks where it was imperative that self interest and pecuniary advantage be kept as distant as possible if the minister were to expect unbiased, non-conflicted advice and recommendations. But notwithstanding these obvious shortcomings proceeded to enlist Mr Mason’s services to advise him on the way forward with Telecommunications and the Commerce Bill, two areas in which CITC and/or Mr Clarke have an abiding interest?”
Brown has answered early in case Mason’s name is smeared, and to put to rest rumours of improper conduct.
Mason was appointed to the Commerce Bill Committee by Internal Affairs Secretary Bredina Drollet on the recommendation of the committee chair Terry Hagan, says Brown.
After Mason accepted directorship of CITC, he notified the committee and was “prepared to stand down”, the minister says.
“The chair did not feel there was a conflict of interest and while it was noted for the record, no other action was taken.”
Brown says he “fully supports” Mason’s appointment to the committee.
“We are fortunate to have someone of the calibre, integrity and moral decency of Brian Mason available to work with us on this bill.”
He also points out that if Mason’s possible conflicts of interest were questioned, then he should not be singled out, as one other committee member is also a company director.
The minister says he is currently working on responses to other questions posed to him but must gather information first before answering them.