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Contradicting arguments over Niue's SOE status

By PMN News -

An Opposition MP in Niue has called out Premier Sir Toke Talagi’s caucus for making changes to the law that prevents state-owned enterprises’ financial reports from being tabled in Parliament.

Niue Opposition MP O'Love Jacobsen claims Premier Sir Toke Talagi's caucus is not revealing its SOE financial reports to Parliament. Photo/ PMN.

Common roll MP O'Love Tauveve Jacobsen’s claims are based on amendments made to the Niue Philatelic and Numismatic Act in 2011.

The original Act which became law in 1996 was created for coinage and stamps services under the Niue Philatelic and Numismatic Company (NPNC).

Amendments to the Act in 2011 changed the NPNC from being a company to a corporation to improve its operation and extend its functions.

In the original 1996 Act, NPNC’s estimates were required to be “submitted to the Assembly” for approval and any money spent was to be in accordance with the approved budget.

But the amendments in 2011 changed the law so that estimates were now only required to “be submitted to Cabinet” for approval.

In an exclusive interview with PMN, Sir Toke Talagi says reports are still being made available to Parliament, despite the law change.

“Essentially, that’s what it says in the [2011] Act … but everyone in the House gets copies of the reports and the accounts.”

But Jacobsen, who was Niue's High Commissioner to New Zealand in 2011, says members of Parliament do not see any financial reports from NPNC and other state-owned entities.

“These matters are not reflected in the House because the budget for SOE is not tabled in the House," says Jacobsen.

“How do we know in our representative role and oversight role when nothing is disclosed for us to know?”

"When they don't bring it to the House then the game is theirs and we're left to squander around and just see what information we could get."

However Sir Toke is certain reports have been made available in Parliament.

“I am uncertain as to the reasons why she [Jacobsen] should say that because all that information is tabled in the House and now public documents… anybody in the public can go and access it.”

Photo/ PMN.

In a letter to Niue’s Speaker of the House in July, the New Zealand Auditor-General warned Niue of a backlog of uncompleted audits since 2015, due to the delays in financial reports from a couple of state-owned entities including NPNC.

On Niue Government’s website NPNC is listed under its commercial and trading arm or state-owned enterprises.

But amendments in 2011 declared that NPNC “is not a public company under or subject to the Companies Act 2006, and shall cease to be subject of that Act”.

Which leads to another concern raised by Jacobsen: if some state-owned entities are now operating under a corporation (NPNC) that is no longer a public company, whose finances are not required to be approved by Parliament, why is it being fronted as SOE when she claims information is being withheld?

Speaking to PMN, Sir Toke emphasised that Niue’s SOEs, specifically NPNC, are still fully owned by the government.

“It’s not a private company. It still remains part of the government’s institutions. We can’t privatise it. We have not privatised it. I can’t do that and we can’t do that unless an Act in the house has passed to say that is the case and we haven’t said anything of the kind.”

Jacobsen has raised her concerns with New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

But a spokesperson from MFAT in a statement says it is not investigating the concerns raised by Jacobsen.

“While we work actively with the Government of Niue to improve and strengthen its self-governance capability, this is a matter for the Government of Niue, as a self-governing nation.”

Jacobsen has also notified a team of auditors from the Office of the Auditor-General.

“I’m hoping that they would look to it in depth.”

“A lot of these things done on paper, so many of our people are not aware and that’s what I wanted to do is make them aware,” says Jacobsen.

Tags: Niue,