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New strategy aims to reduce corruption in Cook Islands

Thursday 23 June 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Economy, National

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New strategy aims to reduce  corruption in Cook Islands
Financial secretary Garth Henderson. (PHOTO: COOK ISLANDS TOURISM). 21032304

A report on how the Cook Islands Government should change its approach to tackling corruption is awaiting final sign-off.

The Anti-Corruption Committee, a multi-agency committee featuring members from several Government departments, is in the process of finalising its National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS).

The announcement of the strategy comes not too long after the Opposition Democratic Party leader Tina Browne told Cook Islands News that tackling issues of corruption would be one of the key platforms of their party’s election campaign.

The Anti-Corruption Committee chairman Garth Henderson said the NACS would likely address:

  • Adequacy of anti-corruption legislation
  • Adequacy of policies and procedures, whether or not updating is required.
  • Adequacy of enforcement efforts
  • Capacity and training of personnel involved in anti-corruption measures
  • Participation of additional key stakeholders in anti-corruption measures (e.g., representation from community groups / private sector / etc.)
  • Promotion of anti-corruption awareness raising and information dissemination.

“This is something we are giving much thought to,” said Henderson, who is also the country’s Financial Secretary. 

“General public familiarity with anti-corruption legislation and reporting mechanisms is one challenge and capacity constraints to provide a full scope of services (enforcement, awareness and training) to both public sector, private sector and general public is another. I expect we will discover more as the consultations roll out.”

Henderson said the public can assist by familiarising themselves with the existing legislation and material they have on the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) website.

“Once public consultations start on the NACS, make an effort to get involved,” Henderson said.

“Ultimately the overall objective of the NACS is to substantially reduce corruption in the Cook Islands in all its forms.”

Henderson said it would be “business as usual” for the committee during the election period. Late last month, the committee issued a public notice warning prospective candidates of the various ways people can be charged for corruption during an election campaign.

Henderson said the Government acknowledges the importance of collective leadership, teamwork and partnerships within and outside government to effectively combat corruption, and the need to involve the community and private sector. 

“However, the Government acknowledges the limited resources and therefore the effectiveness of a cooperative approach in the fight against corruption as opposed to individual efforts,” Henderson said.  

“The Government reinforces their commitment to promote and strengthen anti-corruption measures and practices.”