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Anti-Corruption Strategy to be presented early next year.

Wednesday 7 December 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Local, National

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Anti-Corruption Strategy to be presented early next year.
Source: MFEM Facebook

A multi-department strategy planning to tackle corruption in the Cook Islands will be presented to Cabinet early next year.

Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) financial secretary Garth Henderson said the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) was in its final drafting stages.

“Once it has been presented to Cabinet in the early new year, I expect that we should see a release to the general public. The drafting work has already included comprehensive consultations already,” Henderson said.

 It comes close to a decade after the Cook Islands Government ratified the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. During that time, the Anti-Corruption Committee (ACC) of senior Government officials has been working actively to combat corruption through inter-agency cooperation.

Previously, Dr Jim Gosselin, who has helped prepare the document in support of the ACC, said back in September that there would be a focus on prevention of corruption and enforcement of corruption-related legislation.

He said there would be a stronger focus on protecting whistleblowers.

“It would include arrangements for protecting the confidentiality of the whistleblower. There would be procedures for them to point out corruption while also maintaining their anonymity,” Gosselin said.

The draft version of the NACS, released for consutlation in July, says: “While many positive, anti-corruption related initiatives have been taken over the years there are a number of further steps that can and will be taken to build on those initiatives and further promote and strengthen anti-corruption efforts”.

“The vast majority of public officials in the Cook Islands carry out their responsibilities with diligence, honesty and integrity,” it says.

“At the same time, it is critically important that those responsible for enforcing those laws, policies and procedures aimed at fighting corruption, especially at the higher levels, are not only truly independent but are seen by the people of the Cook Islands as trustworthy and having been appointed solely based on professional merit and not having got their positions as a result of nepotism, cronyism, kickbacks, political affiliations or other reasons that might suggest to the people of the Cook Islands that they might perform their duties in a partial manner.”

The draft NACS has also proposed establishing a National Anti-Corruption Committee, (NACC) which would include representatives of civil society, the private sector and an independent chair.

Investigation of specific instances of possible corruption would be undertaken by current enforcement agencies such as the Police, the Public Service Commission and the Ombudsman.

However, under the NACS, Government departments and other bodies funded by Government would provide annual reports on their activities for consideration by Parliament.