The Cook Islands Pearl Authority is hitting back at Public Expenditure Review Committee (PERC) for what it calls “vilifying the reputation and integrity of individuals” and failing to put the record straight.
Cook Islands Pearl Authority (CIPA) chief executive George Ellis has responded to the PERC report highlighting a conflict of interest by the government agency when it entered into a $70,000 marketing arrangement with Drum Productions Limited to launch the Kalia by Style Pasifika Collection.
CI News reported on Saturday the head of Drum Productions Limited was Stan Wolfgramm, the brother of Alexis Wolfgramm who chairs CIPA’s marketing advisory group.
“Let me state that these allegations by (PERC chairman Geoff) Stoddart and PERC are unfounded and on the contrary the professional conduct and integrity of PERC should be under review because of this,” said Ellis.
“Here is another example of this powerful body vilifying the reputation and integrity of individuals but fails to do the right thing to correct its own errors and put the record straight.”
Ellis maintains there was never any conflict of interest.
“Alexis of her own volition stepped down as chair of MAG when Drum Productions first outlined a proposal to launch a high end fashion line (Style Pasifika Collection) which would exclusively use Avaiki Cook Islands Pearls in the clothing and as a jewellery accessory.
“During the PERC investigation of the matter in July 2016, I was interviewed but no one else was to my knowledge,” said Ellis.
“Richard Neves, Financial Secretary, who instigated the investigation, alluded to a conflict of interest in a correspondence to me but I warned him to be very sure of his facts on the subject.”
Ellis said it was a surprise when the PERC report focused on the “conflict of interest” issue with “so little factual basis” to support its contention.
After the PERC report was circulated in September, Alexis Wolfgramm wrote to Stoddart to protest the inaccuracies and uninformed remarks therein pertaining to her and have the record put right, said Ellis, however she received no response.
However Ellis’ failings as chairman were highlighted in the report, as government procedures require the purchase of goods and services over $30,000 to go out to tender – which he failed to do.
“The difficulty here is that the fashion-pearl concept was the intellectual property of Drums and we believed that public tendering would be inappropriate if not difficult without the risk of infringing Drum’s intellectual property or inviting legal action,” said Ellis.
“The same tendering procedures however also allowed for a waiver if circumstances warranted and the Style Pasifika Collection, I felt, falls into this category. My mistake at the time – an honest mistake and oversight – was I did not apply to waive the tender procedure.”
CI News published a story on the Style Pasifika Collection last month using information provided by Ellis, but he did not mention the PERC report at the time.
The Style Pasifika website showcases five different Avaiki pearl jewellery designs.