Dear Editor, on behalf of the Anti-Corruption Committee (ACC), I wish to offer the following comments regarding matters raised in Mr Scott’s columns last Friday and Saturday, ‘Democracy is under threat’ (22-23 July 2022).
As stated explicitly in the draft National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS), the Committee understands the critical importance of strengthening, promoting and implementing effective transparency and accountability policy measures in an effort to prevent corruption. In implementing the NACS when adopted, therefore, a wide range of specific activities will be undertaken wherever necessary to strengthen the transparency and accountability capabilities of the Government, including those of the Audit Office, taking into account comments made by the public on corruption-related issues.
In regard to more recent comments by the Hon. Member of Parliament Selina Napa on Cook Islands Television (26 July 2022), the ACC has in fact been active since 2011, meeting on a quarterly basis, as evidenced by the meeting minutes and annual reports. Over the years, Cook Islands representatives from the ACC have been active amongst other things in reviewing anti-corruption measures in various countries. These efforts strengthen institutional capacity through prerequisite training.
Earlier efforts to develop the NACS were hampered by a lack of funding and the intervention of Covid-19 and its burdens upon key government agencies, particularly those represented in the ACC. When approached by the ACC for funding some four months ago, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) based in Fiji were receptive to our request, thus allowing Dr J Gosselin to be recruited some six weeks ago to conduct the NACS for the Cook Islands.
Unfortunately, Dr J Gosselin who is coordinating the public consultations on the NACS, requires some urgent medical attention. As a result, the consultation period will be extended, with the first draft of a NACS completed by mid-August.
As the general public is aware, we have recently seen criminal cases detected and investigated within the Police Administration, the National Environment Services (NES) and Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI). This has led to criminal charges laid against senior government officials, including a senior politician. Representative agencies within ACC are involved in pursuing these cases. This reflects that despite limited resources, we have a robust law enforcement regime that actively investigates corrupt activities brought to their attention.
The ACC continues to welcome suggestions from the public on the draft NACS with a view to improving our overall efforts to address corruption issues in the Cook Islands.
Garth Henderson Financial Secretary and chairman of the ACC
Citizens Against Corruption
Who are the Members of CAC (Citizens Against Corruption)? Are they a public interest group or a political action group?