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Opposition discusses returning to PAC, but concerns remain

Saturday 15 June 2024 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in National, Parliament, Politics


Opposition discusses returning to PAC, but concerns remain
Opposition Leader Tina Browne. MELINA ETCHES / 24051509

The Democratic Party MPs will be meeting today to discuss the possibility of rejoining the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) after resigning last month over the appointment of the new chair.

Opposition leader Tina Browne of the Democratic Party says there has been a request to rejoin the Committee.

However, Browne adds there has been “no efforts by government” to resolve the issues that led to their resignation.

Browne resigned from the Committee alongside deputy party leader and deputy chair, MP Vaitoti Tupa last month. The third Opposition MP in the Committee, Cook Islands United Party’s Robert Heather, also resigned last month.

Browne earlier said there were two issues that led to their resignation – the appointment of a new member to replace former member and chair Minister Tingika Elikana, and election of a new chair.

MP Teokotai Herman from the governing Cook Islands Party (CIP) was elected the new chair to replace Elikana, who was appointed as a Minister of the Crown in February this year.

Independent Mauke MP Steven Matapo, who is part of the CIP led coalition government, was chosen as the new member. The other members of the Committee are Government MPs Te-Hani Brown and Sonny Williams.

Browne told Cook Islands News this week that she and MP Tupa will discuss the issue with the Mangaian MPs in Mangaia today.

Also: Opposition MPs walk out of PAC over chair appointment

Clerk of Parliament Tangata Vainerere, who is also in Mangaia for the island’s Bicentennial Celebration, said there was no more progress “than my initial attempt to follow up with the Leader of the Opposition in brokering a return to the PAC by the Opposition as soon as possible”.

“She will meet with her members this weekend to sort out their position and will advise the Speaker on that position in due course. That’s all I can say at this point,” Vainerere said.

Browne earlier said it was very clear to her that the PAC was being stacked with Cook Islands Party coalition majority “so that the chair would be CIP”.

“To me such a structure defeated the very intent of the Standing Orders i.e. establishing a robust PAC to scrutinise Government’s accounts, hold Government to account for its spending and ensure transparency.

“In other words, PAC’s vital role was to promote good governance.”

Clerk of Parliament Vainerere said the resignations do not affect the work of the PAC on the review of the Appropriation Bill 2024-25 (Budget).

“The Committee proceeds with its work as planned. Under Standing Order 134(1), the quorum of a parliamentary committee is half of the membership of the committee, rounded upwards where applicable, including for the avoidance of doubt, the chairperson. With the resignations, the Committee currently have four members which fulfils the requirements of the said Standing Order.”

The Public Accounts Committee will be submitting its report on the Appropriation Bill 2024-25 (Budget) when the Parliament resumes on Monday.

It was established by the Cook Islands Parliament in December 2015 to be the financial oversight of Parliament on the Budget, Public Accounts and Audit Reports.

Browne earlier said as it stands today “we have a committee made up entirely of Government MPs scrutinising their own accounts! What a joke!”