Acting Secretary of Health Bob Williams. TCI/20122843
Former police officer Bob Williams has been appointed the acting Secretary of Health while the hunt for a permanent head of ministry continues.
Questions have been raised over the appointment of Bob
Williams as acting Secretary of Health.
Williams, the former chief executive officer for the Minister
of Health’s Support Office, took over the role on Christmas day.
The position became vacant after Dr Josephine Aumea Herman
resigned in November this year. Dr Herman was supposed to see out her
three-year term ending in February 2021 but she decided to vacate her position
Public Service Commissioner Russell Thomas confirmed
Williams’ appointment after he tendered his resignation from the chief
executive officer role on Thursday.
But the Opposition Democratic Party has raised concerns over
the appointment and the selection process adopted by the Office of the Public
Opposition leader Tina Browne said: “We would have expected
one of the directors in the Ministry of Health to be appointed the acting
Secretary of Health until the permanent appointment is made.”
“It is of concern that someone with no health administration
or health management related qualifications or experience has been chosen for
the top Health post in our country.
“At a time when we are battling to keep the Covid pandemic
out of our country, new strains of the virus are becoming established around
the world, countries are experiencing second waves, the government has made a
political appointment rather than putting the needs of the country, our people
first and appointing someone with the experience and qualifications that are
In criticising government appointments, Browne said there
was glaring disparity between the criteria set for the positions,
qualifications and experience and who the government then appoints to these top
According to the Office of the Public Service Commissioner,
minimum requirements to apply for Secretary of Health role are Masters in
Public Sector Management or Masters in Business Administration in Heath and 10
year’ working experience at a senior leadership position in managing and
administering a major function of a small/medium organisation or a major
department//branch of a large organisation.
Browne said: “What the Opposition will be watching closely
is that the Public Service Commission does not depart from accepted appointment
processes for senior positions in government.”
“The Public Service Commission cannot deviate from its own
selection process; the appointment of a selection panel, creation of a short
list, background checks, interview process, selection of top applicants and the
final step of submitting to the relevant minister the recommended candidate.
“The government can rest assured that Opposition will not
accept any hint of political cronyism or deviation from the rules with respect
to appointing a permanent head for Health. The person who gets this job must
absolutely be the best applicant for the position. The appointment must be
based on merit not political favours and tradeoffs amongst coalition cabinet
members. The Opposition will not tolerate this and neither will the public.”
Russell Thomas said Williams brings a wealth of
administrative and operational experience to this position.
His journey in the public sector started with the Cook
Islands Police Service where he served for 16 years rising to the rank of
Senior Detective at the time of his departure.
“Williams also spent a decade in the Financial Intelligence
Unit managing stakeholder relationships, policy and legislative reforms. This
work helped place the Cook Islands at the forefront of having an effective
framework to mitigate money laundering,” Thomas said.
“A short stint with the Office of the Public Service
Commissioner as a senior policy advisor was followed with his appointment to the
Bank of the Cook Islands as the chief risk officer where Williams was
responsible for assessing operational, regulatory, legal, technological and
financial risks across the business of the bank.”
Williams has strong relationships across community groups in
Rarotonga and in the Pa Enua, adds Thomas.
“He intends to work closely with the Te Marae Ora’s senior
management team and their stakeholders who have all worked together to keep
this nation one of the few countries that remains free of Covid-19.”
The recruitment process for the next Secretary of Te Marae
Ora began last month. Applications closed on Thursday.