The recommendations are aimed at ensuring value for taxpayer money and promote transparency and accountability in the distribution of public funds. The Budget Support Group is selected by the Finance minister in consultation with the Financial Secretary.
In previous Budget processes, membership of the Budget Support Group consisted primarily of Heads of Ministries (HOMs). However, this year the BSG will be made up of a number of competent professionals who are high ranking government officials, representing a broad cross-section of experience and expertise in finance, social policy, law and economics and accountancy.
Team members were specifically selected based on their background with the aim of having a holistic approach in the analysis of proposals and to encourage robust and sound decision-making in the Budget process
The people detailed here will take on these responsibilities and provide the Cook Islands government with a report of recommendations, advising how best funds should be appropriated for the 2017/18 Budget. Leading the Budget process and assisting Budget Support Group members are the Budget and Economic Team at the Ministry of Finance.
Chairman: Petero Okotai – Executive officer: CIIC
Petero Okotai has a background in economics, public policy and strategic planning. He is a graduate of the University of Auckland with first class honours and has more than 12 years’ experience in his specialist areas. He has been involved in policy work across a number of government ministires. Throughout his career he has worked on a broad range of issues both as a consultant and public servant, involved in everything from economic analysis through to infrastructure. Petero is a former Director of Central Policy and Planning and is the executive officer at CIIC. He is also a member of the Pacific Taskforce for UN Sustainable Development Goals and oversaw the development of the current NSDP.
Angelia Williams-Tangapiri – Budget & Planning Manager: MFEM
Angelia Williams-Tangapiri, 27, completed most of her school years on Rarotonga and completed her schooling in New Zealand, where she obtained a Bachelors’ degree in Business and Economics. She moved back to Rarotonga in 2012 and worked as an economic analyst in the Economic Division of MFEM. After a few years she became a senior budget analyst working in the Budget Division of MFEM.
In 2015, she received a Cook Islands scholarship to return to New Zealand to complete her Masters in Professional Accounting. She is now leading the Cook Islands Budget process with a staff of two budget analysts. They are Edwina Matenga who has a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Accounting and Economics and Rufina Teulilo who previously worked for Revenue Management Division.
Working alongside the Budget Division is the economic team: Natalie Cooke (economic advisor) has a distinction in Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Economics, a Bachelors of Law and a Masters of Science in Economic Policy. Kaipo Ingram (economic analyst) who has a Bachelor of Business majoring in Economics and Finance.
Miimetua Nimerota – Acting Director, Central Policy and Planning Office, OPM
Miimetua (Mii) Nimerota has been Senior Strategic Policy and Planning advisor in the Central Policy and Planning Office since 2014 and has a BA Management & Public Administration, a Masters degree in Information Systems, a post-graduate certificate in Public Sector Management and a post-gradiate diploma in Tertiary Teaching. She provides advice to agencies in the development of national policy, strategic planning, and her office is responsible for the monitoring and evaluation of the National Sustainable Development Plan 2016-2020.
Mii’s diverse background across both the private and public sectors, encompasses experience as a volunteer and gives a well-rounded insight into differing needs of Cook Islanders. A strong Information Systems background provides her with insights into the Cook Islands’ growing IT demands.
Valentino Wichman – Manger of Policy, Research, Monitoring & Evaluation: Health ministry
Valentino Wichman has a Law and Arts degree from the University of Auckland. He has been with the Ministry of Health since 2013 where he is now the manager of policy, research and monitoring and evaluation. In this role he has been involved with the coordination and drafting of numerous national policies and strategies.
Valentino has also been involved with research with papers on the Cook Islands land tenure system and the Power dynamics of the Ariki at the Law and Culture, meaningful legal pluralism in the Pacific and beyond conferences (USP Emalus Campus , Vanuatu) in 2010 and 2011. Valentino also received a summer scholarship at the University of Auckland to help research on constitutional engineering in the the Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga in terms of conflict studies. Valentino is an active advocate and campaigner around LGBTI rights and received a Queens Young Leader’s award in 2016
Metua Vaiimene – Director of Destination Development: CITC
Metua Vaiimene is director of destination development with the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation and has successfully managed flagship projects including the Kia Orana Values programme, and the International Visitors Survey. He has an MBA from USP along with a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Accounting. Metua has extensive experience in the public sector as a former government auditor and a budget analyst and economic trainee with MFEM, and has served as a chief executive for the office of a Minister of the Crown. Metua has also worked in the private sector for both local and international companies, and has worked full time for an non-government organisation (NGO). Metua has also operated several of his own small businesses.
Owen Lewis – Human Resource Manager: OPSC
Owen Lewis is Human Resource Manager at the Office of the Public Service Commissioner. Owen was educated in the Cook Islands. After completing his education in Mangaia and Rarotonga, Owen went to New Zealand in the early 1980s as a Cook Islands scholarship student and studied towards a Bachelor of Science and Diploma in Teaching before returning to the Cook Islands, where he began his teaching career in Mangaia.
After returning to New Zealand Owen worked in the education, health and social service sectors. He gained significant experience working in senior management positions for Te Wananga O Aotearoa in Hamilton, Te Runanga O Te Rarawa in the Far North, the Deaf Association of New Zealand in the Northern region and with the Pasifika Education Centre nationally.
He has also owned and managed a series of early childhood education centres and has served on Boards of Trustees at primary and intermediate schools. He returned to the Cook Islands in 2013 to take up the position as director of the Cook Islands Tertiary Training Institute. He has a wide range of learning, teaching and management experiences in health, social services and educational sectors
Danielle Cochrane – Director of Planning and Development: Education ministry
Danielle has a post-graduate certificate in Educational Leadership and Management, a diploma of Teaching (Secondary) and a Bachelor of Arts. She has public and private senior management experience as well as 10 years’ experience in teaching and management. She has a strong working knowledge of the National Sustainability Development Plan. She understands the linkages between strategic, medium term and annual planning. She also has experience with monitoring and evaluation frameworks and information synthesis and report-writing.
Danielle’s family is from Aitutaki. She has a Cook Islands mother and papa’a father. She moved back to Rarotonga in 2008 after teaching in New Zealand to begin working with the Education ministry. Worked with Air Rarotonga from 2012-2014, but returned to Education to take up director responsibilities with the Planning & Development division.
The Budget Support Group has worked collaboratively with the Infrastructure Committee (IC) from March 21 to March 31. It has had discussions with all government departments including those in the Pa Enua about all proposals submitted.
With the meetings completed, the BSG and IC will progress to the next stage of the budget process to give further consideration in the prioritisation of the budget priorities.
The BSG hope to submit their report and recommendations to cabinet by the end of April, with the final Budget due in June.