Rob Oakeshott, who is now a consultant with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said the committee’s job was to find the truth on the matters they were tasked to look into.
He also said the committee had an important role to play in driving systemic change in any country through the recommendations they make on their findings.
PAC chairperson Tingika Elikana agreed with Oakeshott’s sentiments, adding they were ready to deliver to ensure that the “oversight necessary for finance in the Cook Islands is exercised”.
Oakeshott said regardless of a super tight Parliament, the committee could still work and do a lot of investigation on all the various projects in the Cook Islands.
He said it was pretty exciting that the committee have agreed to meet and put together a work plan for the future, adding they hopefully do some good on behalf of all Cook Islanders.
“(Their job is to) basically get down dirty with all the details of various projects that are happening around town whether its government projects to do with clean water, how departments are functioning or whether they are delivering annual reports and whether it’s working with the auditor general on auditor general’s work programme. It could be the whole spectrum of accountability, transparency and oversight of government work and government spending,” Oakeshott said.
“I think something kind of unique in this moment here in the Cook Islands is you got a chairman (Elikana) who previously was a witness before the PAC. He has seen the other side of the whole process, that’s going to be a valuable asset for PAC into the future which works at its best when it fears no one, favours no one and really just drills down to find the truth.”
Oakeshott said it was also very important for the PAC to make their findings and recommendations public.
“Similar to auditor general and the good independent work that an auditor general can do, the recommendations that they make combined with the
recommendations that the PAC can make can really drive systemic change in any country,” he said.
Committee chairman Elikana, who is the country’s former Solicitor-General and Secretary of the Justice ministry,
has pledged transparency in
the work the committee will carry out.
“The process is to work with the Clerk of Parliament (Tangata Vainerere) and I have been assured by the clerk that it would be more transparent. In fact, the people would be made aware of the sitting of the Public Accounts Committee and any report and recommendation will be made public unless there are reasons not to make it public,” Elikana said.
Oakeshott is in the country alongside the principal research officer of the PAC of Western Australia Tim Hughes.
The two are running a three day workshop with the Cook Islands PAC members at the Parliament, explaining to them their roles and responsibilities, among other things.
The workshop which started on Tuesday is attended by all the committee members except Terepai Maoate, who is away overseas.
The other members include Vaitoti Tupa, who is the deputy chair, Tai Tura, Patrick Arioka, and Te-Hani Brown. A replacement for former MP Toka
Hagai, who was a member of the PAC, will be made when the Parliament sits, most likely next month.