HOM selection deemed ‘a mockery’

Thursday October 11, 2018 Published in Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

The selection process used by both the panel which chooses Heads of Ministries (HOMs), and the people who choose Cabinet ministers is of great concern.


Although the Public Service Commission Act says the Commissioner makes the final appointments, Cabinet has political influence to make the final determination regardless of the panel recommendation or whether the favoured candidate is even on the “recommended” list. Interesting, under provision 11 of the PSC Act there can be no appeal against the appointment.

The HOMs board or panel consists of four members: the Public Service Commissioner, who is the chairperson, one person recommended by the minister responsible for the Public Service, one person recommended by the members of the Public Service Association and one person recommended by Cabinet.

We understand that no-one was recommended by the members of the Public Service Association and that the Cook Islands Workers’ Association (CIWA), which appears to have been dysfunctional for years, contributed next to nothing to protect the interests of public servants.

Surely they should have tried to find out why there was no representative of public service employees on the selection panel. CIWA should also be seeking clarification through the Information Act regarding the number of candidates (who applied for HOM jobs) and the panel’s recommendations. If it turns out that there were any problems, action should be taken to ensure that in future, the selection process is transparent, fair and accountable. 

Earlier this year, the new chief of staff at the Office of the Prime Minister, Ben Ponia, was suspended as secretary of the Ministry of Marine Resources for the second time. However, he continued to collect a taxpayer-funded salary for some months while an investigation was carried out. He now has the top job at OPM and is collecting a salary in the significant range as he was at MMR.

How did this come about and what happened to the investigation? There should be an independent review of this matter and the public should be told what the outcome of the investigation was. We, the taxpayers, have to suffer from the ignorance and non-efficiency of management at the highest level for not carrying out due diligence.

We believe there were candidates for head of ministry jobs who were more qualified than the people who were appointed. However, it would appear that political influence  may play a significant part in the game. If this is in fact the case, why would our very own qualified people, with their wealth of experience even bother applying for the job next time?

The whole process is shameful. The Workers’ Association should shrug of the cobwebs and represent the interests of the Public Service. Otherwise, we would encourage members to withdraw membership from such a dysfunctional organisation.

To the knowledgeable candidates who failed to secure a position: the truth will eventually come out. Hold your heads high and continue your good work for our small country.

            Tavini no te Basileia 

            (Name and address supplied)   

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