Cooks boat deal under fire
The Cook Islands Democratic Party has hit out at the government over a deal for a schooner saying the contract has been mishandled.
A Cook Islands opposition party says the government has mishandled a deal for a ship.
Pacific Schooners Limited was contracted to provide a ship to transport Pa Enua residents back to their islands after the country's celebrations for its 50th anniversary of self governance earlier this month.
But the ship still has not arrived and alternative transport had to be arranged.
The Cook Islands Democratic Party member and MP for Murienua, James Beer, told Daniela Maoate-Cox details on the arrangement including a supposed deposit of 130-thousand US dollars, are scant and the party is filing for a judicial inquiry.
JAMES BEER: The judicial inquiry needs to answer, and it needs to ask, under oath to all the participants in this particular exercise as to how the administration of the contract and the events leading up to that contract being put together, whether or not we had a level playing field, whether or not the questions regarding the pre-payment of $NZ1.3million ($US850,000) was inclusive of the amount of money that was recently paid in advance to Pacific Schooners. Whether or not the parameters by which the contract bidders were going to put their tenders in for was the same as what was articulated inside the contract. And apart from that we need to understand why the demand, or why the contract where it specifies that if there is a breach of the contract that a demand has to be made, our understanding is that since the advance money has been paid the vessel still sits in Panama. It takes about 30 to 35 days at that vessel speed to get here, which means by the time it gets here the actual period by which they will be conducting their part of the contract will almost have expired. Then there's whether or not the advanced payment to Pacific Schooners was approved by parliament and where that authorisation is. Because as a member of parliament, we have yet to see that particular authorisation.
DANIELA MAOATE-COX: The contract for Pacific Schooners, is a limited contract is it? It's not a regular service between the islands?
JB: That's correct. It's a limited turn, it's specifically from the 9th of August to the 30th of September and it's specific to 130 passengers only and the other aspect of it as well is that our concerns also surround the actual contract where we are looking at the contract and asking ourselves who in Crown Law, the government legal agency, had drafted this contract, because there's an absence of witnesses which is normally in adherence to generally accepted legal international standards of any legal contact. That adherence doesn't seem to appear in this contract that has been signed by the Financial secretary and the director of Pacific Schooners and there is an absence of witnesses which raises even more questions about this contract.
DM-C: In terms of the advance payment though, if that is a deposit, wouldn't that have been decided upon once a contract and arrangement had been confirmed?
JB: Well from what I've spoken to one of the other bidders, that option was never made available to him and he certainly said if that was available to him or that knowledge given to him he would certainly have been able to provide a service with a better vessel. There was a denial by one of the signatories, the financial secretary, as the weeks went on, he eventually advised that an advanced payment had been made. The mere fact that he was reluctant to disclose that information from the outset raises the possibility that something here was not right.
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