LETTERS: Conflicts of interest

Tuesday 12 October 2021 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion

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LETTERS: Conflicts of interest

Letters for October 12, 2021

Dear Editor,

The public is not fool, and when we see the current debacle playing out in the courts, we all know who and why. This could have been averted if the simple rule of conflict of interest had been followed but some people actually think they are above the law.

So, here’s another something for our hardworking public to think about. How can Mike Henry, ‘CIP Leader’ and benefactor be made the project lead for the multi-million-dollar Arutanga Port Project and chairman of the Board of CIIC (Cook Islands Investment Corporation) that is doing the project at the same time. Ummm hello, that’s called a conflict of interest people that he will be paid hundreds of thousands of your dollars for a project he also sits on the Board for. The CIIC Board should be asking the hard ones because if they don’t, the hardworking honest taxpaying public will.

And while we at it, I see Ianis Boaza appointed to the Airport runway project where he will earn more of your hard-earned dollars despite also being a director of the Airport Authority. And while we at it, last I looked a criminal conviction meant you couldn’t be a director so how did Taoro Brown get the job, pray tell.

You see, these guys don’t care about you and me, joe public, taxpayers because they do as they please. Doesn’t matter where you look, there’s the same small group of people scalping public money, using their position to pay their buddies and all with the familiar surnames, go figure must be a coincidence. Hey what do I know, well what I know is when I get paid every month, after a month’s honest work, I have to pay taxes which go to paying for these guys’ lifestyles so they can do as they please. Well I’m sick of it. The CIIC Board should change their name to the COI Board.

Concerned Cookie

(Name and address supplied)

Reply – Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this anonymous letter. We the Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC) welcome all opportunities to present the facts.

To begin with, conflicts occur in boardrooms around the world every day of the week, it’s how you manage those conflicts that matters. That is particularly so when we have a small population and therefore a relatively limited pool of expertise to draw on.

In this case, to clarify, Mr Michael Henry is not the Project Lead for the Arutanga Harbour Project. He is the Project Works Liaison Officer, who is accountable and reports to the Project Manager, who is then accountable to the CIIC Government Facilities Development Division (GFDD) Manager. Mr Henry was appointed as the result of an open application process run by a Tender Panel which was then examined by the Tender Committee. That was determined by the attributes he brings to the role, in comparison to the other applicants who expressed an interest in this position.

Upon his selection, the CIIC Board noted the potential for, and the perception of a conflict of interest and undertook extensive discussions with the Crown Law Office (CLO) and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) in this respect.

As a result, the Tender Committee, CLO and MFEM confirmed that directors are not prohibited from being employed in other roles as long as the Board has processes to manage any potential, actual or perceived conflicts of interest. This is an accepted governance practice in many jurisdictions, particularly where there is a small pool of expertise to call upon.

It is important to note that the CIIC Board already had a robust and best practice policy and practices for managing conflicts of interest. In respect of this particular situation, the Board has put in place a number of mechanisms to manage the potential for or perception of a conflict of interest including:

  • Noting any interests actual or potential in the Board Interests Register and meeting minutes
  • Ensuring that the Board member in question is excluded from any material, information or discussions related to making decisions on this project
  • Requiring the Board member in his capacity as Project Works Liaison Officer to comply with all accountability and communication protocols in place for the project
  • Nominating the CIIC CEO to deal with any breaches of accountability and communication protocols that put the organisation and project at risk, for which the ultimate action will be immediate termination of the Project Works Liaison Officer tenure.

Finally, it should be noted that the CIIC Board comprises five Board directors including the Chair, and that Board decisions are made by the collective, not individuals. All Board members take their role seriously and have worked hard over the last five years to improve its own governance practices and those of the state-owned enterprise Boards; putting in place transparent and open processes for the identification and appointment of Directors, Board training and support.

Allan Jensen

Chief Executive Officer

Cook Islands Investment Corporation

Northland College and

past affiliate students

I wish to add to the much-appreciated article by Al Williams last Saturday, October 9 (Former Northland College students reconnect). The New Zealand scholarship scheme began in the 1950s sending young students to NZ and Fiji. The graduates ultimately became teachers, accountants, doctors, nurses, dentists and tradesmen.

The scholarship scheme was taken over by the Cook Islands Government in the 1970s. The 200 figure of scholarship students mentioned were for all colleges not just Northland College and for a two-year period. We, past Northland College students, started an arrangement to meet and have lunch on the first Friday of every month. We discuss amongst limitless subjects, those of us who are suffering from ill-health and may need some help. We are now in our third year and our organisation is growing steadily. Now we invite former Tereora College students of the 1960s era, all other college students of this period, government scholarships as well as graduate students. Being in our 60s and 70s, we are happily cruising towards Sunset Boulevard, giving thanks to the Lord for giving us a good life to celebrate and enjoy!

We are hosted at the Four Winds Kafe’ on the backroad at the Tavioni Creative Arts Centre in Atupa. Gourmet all Maori food was served. Last Friday the menu included roast pork, puakatoro miti (beef in brine) and rukau, seafood chowder, poke meika and nita, and the compulsory taro, followed by dessert. We are fortunate to have master chef Ukarau spoil us all with his kitchen magic. The price? You donate what you can afford, usually $20, a bowl is left for all to drop their offerings in.

We do this to invite our friends to come out and socialise. Break the boredom, avoid dementia and dare to enjoy yourself. In my experience I have been in the company of Her Majesty the Queen in Wellington and London, met many presidents and prime ministers and yet in the backyard of Atupa I enjoy it above all! You cannot find a better host than the legendary Mike Tavioni and his awesome Tavioni family. Call in sometimes.

Yours sincerely,

Norman George

Co-Organiser

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