8 May 2003

Cooks Ombudsman battles for funding

4:06 pm on 8 May 2003

The Cook Islands' Ombudsman has launched what he calls a paper war against the Ministry of Finance regarding overspending by his office on operational costs.

Andrew Turua says he is angry at the Ministry's decision to withhold funding for his office.

The Ministry says the funding freeze is because the Ombudsman Office overspent by 11 percent or 12-thousand dollars on operational costs.

But Mr Turua says he overspent by just 8-hundred dollars and that the funds he receives every month barely covers his costs.

He says the freeze on funds will further pare down operations which are already almost at zero.

"The critical part for the Ombudsman office is the operational expenses, which has been tailored to a bare minimum, is now curtailed for the next three months, there's nothing to operate."

Last week, Mr Turua issued a public notice saying that he would close the Office, but he later withdrew this because of the constitutional requirement for the Cooks to have an Ombudsman.