25 Jun 2013

Cook Islands government criticised for resistance to full inquiry

3:07 pm on 25 June 2013

The Cook Islands MP Norman George has accused the government of not being fully committed to investigating a system which saved the country's biggest company millions of dollars in import duty fees.

He says the scheme between the Cook Islands Trading Company and Customs from the mid 1980s until 2009 meant other companies suffered because they couldn't compete.

An Audit Office investigation uncovered the arrangement and a report was tabled in parliament in 2011 but the government has only recently approved a review of the scheme by the Public Accounts Committee.

Mr George tabled a motion last year asking for a Royal Commission of inquiry which would look into the recovery of funds, possible political corruption and the role of the company, but says it still hasn't been addressed.

"The government of the day have been dodging it, avoiding it, running away from it and refusing to allow us to debate it by arranging the order of the day, the order of debates in the house to circumvent the motion."

Norman George believes the government is only doing something now because of an article published in a New Zealand magazine earlier this year, and the public outcry which followed.