More Top Stories

Rugby Union

Bigger and busier 2023: PM

31 December 2022

Rugby league

Moana target 2025 World Cup

11 November 2022

Call for ‘more transparency’ in funding for Pacific Games

Thursday 19 October 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Pacific Games 2023, Sports


Call for ‘more transparency’ in funding for Pacific Games
Members of the Cook Islands 7s team to the Oceania 7s and Pacific Games during their fundraiser at Punanga Nui Market in October. MELINA ETCHES/23101534

Concerns have been raised over the distribution of a government grant, reportedly worth $500,000, to the Cook Islands Sports and National Olympic Committee (CISNOC) for the upcoming Pacific Games in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

As participating national federations ramp up their fundraising efforts for the regional games to be held from November 19 to December 2, 2023, questions surrounding the distribution of taxpayer-funded grant have emerged.

Responding to questions from Cook Islands News, CISNOC secretary general Owen Lewis said the funding that they received on September 28 will be strictly allocated for athletes’ travel, insurance, medical team support, and uniform support.

Lewis could not confirm the amount, saying, “we are not in a position to provide specific details of the Cabinet submissions as they are not our submissions”.

However, he said the national federations will receive funding between 50 per cent and 75 per cent of the average travel costs of athletes and teams.

CISNOC general secretary Owen Lewis.

A national federation that wishes to remain anonymous has raised its concerns about the lack of information on the government funding, including its distribution.

“We were initially informed that there might not be government funds available, and as a result, we diligently started fundraising to ensure the team’s participation,” a senior official from the federation said.

“However, later we were informed that there may be some funds allocated, but unfortunately, we have yet to receive any concrete information regarding the amount we will be receiving.

“This lack of timely information has posed challenges for the team, as we have been working tirelessly to raise funds independently. It has caused unnecessary stress and uncertainty for both the athletes and the management, hindering our ability to plan effectively for the games.”
The federation said they believe that transparent communication and prompt updates on the funding status would greatly assist them in managing their financial efforts more efficiently.

“I believe some teams have received notification (last week) of government funding they will receive. Whilst this is appreciated this is really late given the Pacific Games have been known about for at least the last four years and the initial engagement with sporting codes started in December 2022.

“The majority of athletes and management are non-professional i.e. they have full time study or employment so need to train and prepare after hours and the added stress and commitment of fundraising takes away from the games preparation to be able to put our best foot forward.”

Explaining the funding process, Lewis said it is vital to understand the intricate steps and the time required to make the funding happen.

He said their application for government support underwent a detailed procedure, involving a Cabinet submission endorsed by the Minister for Sport.

“CISNOC is a separate entity from the government, and thus, any financial support cannot be received directly but must go through a government department.

“The decision to support team Cook Islands was made during a Cabinet meeting and went through further processes with the Ministry of Finance & Economic Management and the Ministry of Cultural Development. A Memorandum of Understanding was crafted to ensure the appropriate allocation and reporting of funds.”
Lewis said this “meticulous” process reflected the highest standards of financial accountability, and was essential, given that taxpayer funds are involved.

“We are immensely grateful to those staff involved from these departments for their support in making this happen in the timeframes they have.”

However, the anonymous federation said while they understood the complexities involved in government processes, they would sincerely appreciate a more timely approach going forward and that the issues causing the delay are identified and addressed.

“More communication, earlier communication and planning to be able to present the best Team Cook Islands can. Our team is dedicated and determined, and with the necessary support, we aim to represent our country with pride and excellence.”

CISNOC’s Lewis said that over a year ago, national federations were informed that they should expect to cover their own costs and not depend on any government support.

“This message was clear – government support was not guaranteed, and it would be received with profound gratitude if extended. We genuinely appreciate the support we received.

“The need for national federations to take responsibility for funding their respective selected athletes and teams is historical. Since my tenure as Secretary General began in 2018, this has been the case.”
He said they hope that moving forward, national federations will consider planning and budgeting for these events as part of their long-term growth and development strategy.

“As part of our commitment at CISNOC, we intend to work closely with national federations to assist in their future planning and preparation for such events.”

Julieanne Westrupp, Cook Islands Touch Association president, said that as one of the largest contingents with 28 athletes, six management/medical personnel and two officials going to the Solomon Islands Games, the association have had to do a large amount of fundraising.

Westrupp said: “National federations are always responsible to raise the funds for overseas competitions, and the Pacific Games is no exception. Any financial assistance received from the Government via CISNOC is always a bonus and very much appreciated.”

“We are not new to fundraising, in fact we have been at it all year! We took an U18 Youth Men’s and Women’s teams to Brisbane in May this year to compete at the Asia Pacific Youth Touch Cup where they came away with the bronze medals in both categories behind Australia 1st and New Zealand 2nd. We had to raise $50,000 to send the two teams.

“When we got back it was straight back into the fundraising for Pacific Games. We’ve had a major raffle, a weight loss challenge, a quiz night and lots and lots of car washes!"

Lewis said: “The government’s support has never been intended to fully fund Team Cook Islands participation in Honiara but if received it would serve as a valuable supplement to our resources; CISNOC and our national federations retain the primary responsibility for funding Team Cook Islands participation.

“It is however CISNOC’s duty to manage, distribute and account for the funds received from government in a manner appropriate of the use of taxpayer funds.”

Lewis added that CISNOC will take responsibility for funding travel and accommodation for any officials they send, in addition to covering remaining uniform costs, obligations to the hosts, Pacific Games Council fees, and other fees associated with the administrative and medical entourage.

Cook Islands News had asked how many CISNOC officials would be attending the event and in what capacity.

“We are committed to ensuring the team’s readiness for the Games through pre-games events and preparation funding, as well as providing appropriate gifts and covering other associated costs. These costs are sizable and will come out of our operation funds.

“Please be well aware that CISNOC unlike where the Olympic and Commonwealth Games are concerned, CISNOC receives no funds to assist Team Cook Islands participation at Pacific Games or Pacific Mini-Games.”