Cooks Opposition raises concern about lack of audit
The Cook Islands Opposition coalition has dismissed Government claims that is delivering sound, disciplined, finance management.
The Cook Islands Opposition coalition has dismissed Government claims that it is delivering sound, disciplined finance management.
It says they can't judge because the Government's accounts haven't been audited for the past three years.
The Opposition's finance spokesman, James Beer, told Don Wiseman this is highly irresponsible.
JAMES BEER: What concerns us, is that we're debating things but they may be irrelevant because those documents, those very important crown accounts, have not been audited by the audit department.
DON WISEMAN: The government is saying everything is looking hunky dory, what makes you think it isn't?
JB: Well the government likes to say that. We have anecdotal evidence from a number of business people and a number of people on the island including myself, that the economy is definite slipping. But what really compounds that situation is that
we've seen the current tax revenue that the country is receiving and we've had an increase in VAT amounts, a bill was passed in 2012 to increase VAT by an extra two and a half percent, and at the same time be able to get more revenue. What's really interesting about this certain development is that revenue collection, which was estimated to come in excess of about 8 million dollars over the current revenue that we're collecting - hasn't occurred. The same VAT amounts are beginning to show up year after year, despite the fact there was an increase VAT so the delivery of a VAT increase has not given the government what they thought it would get. As a result of proposing this increase they've gone out there and expended more money in terms of offering benefits to old age pensioners and children. And that really hasn't been taken care of because the VAT increases they thought they would get did not eventuate and the reason for that is that they didn't realise, is that a number of issues were raised to them over the potential increase in the cost of goods and services, that would force more and more people to leave. What has been happening is that a whole bunch of cook islanders, are beginning to find the cost of living, especially in the upper island has gone up exponentially not by two and a half percent, but by a lot more as a result of the two and a half percent VAT increase. As a result of that it's become harder and harder for outer islanders, particularly on the northern route where there is a lot of isolation and distance to travel and transportation, it's becoming harder and harder for them to live and as a result of that we've had more and more Cook Islanders jumping on a plane and departing the shores for New Zealand or Australia.
DW: And it's purely that, that's really dragging the economy down?
JB: Yes, we've got a whole bunch of stuff, what we're really concerned about is that we've got documents or crown accounts which haven't been audited for now going on 4 years. The last one that came into parliament was for the 2012 period. You know any aid agency or donor agency which unfortunately the Cook Island government rely on so much, should be concerned that the relevancy of those documentations, and it's been audited coming to parliament for oversight and transparency has not existed for the last four years. So when the government says 'we're doing a great job and managing the country's affairs' our position is no it is not, how do we know that when we haven't had transparency on this issue or oversight by parliament?
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