First-ever parliamentary committee to look into BCN and Telecom Niue operations

In an unprecedented move, the Fono Ekepule will appoint a special parliamentary select committee to look into the operations of two government entities.

A motion was presented by the member from Tamakautoga, Mr. Ricky Muiaki Makani, moved that the “Assembly appoint a Special Committee to look at all aspects of the operations of Telecom Niue and Broadcasting Corporation of Niue (BCN) and to report to the Assembly, and further that such Committee consists of no more than five or six members” was passed by 7 votes to 5 at the sitting of the House last week.

This historical move by the law-makers is the first time in the history of Niue that the Assembly will appoint a select committee to review and investigate the operations of two government entities.

It is not clear what the grave concerns are which had prompted the Assembly to appoint a special committee but this is the first time that a parliamentary committee will look into the operations government entities which are governed by their respective Board of Directors.

The Broadcasting corporation is a statutory corporation governed by a Board of Directors appointed by Cabinet under the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Telecom Niue was previously a government department under the Public Service Commission until it became a state-owned entity in 2016 with a Board of Directors. Telecom Niue is a registered company with the Minister of Finance Crossley Tatui the sole shareholder on behalf of the government.

It is not clear what the expected outcome of this undertaking will be because this was not a matter brought before the Fono by a Minister or by way of a paper presented to the meeting.

The government’s Solicitor General Justin Kamupala told BCN News that he was not approached for a legal opinion on the motion, however he says there are provisions in the Standing Orders of the Fono Ekepule which provides that the Assembly may appoint a select committee and the Assembly may refer to said committee “a matter for consideration or enquiry and report.”

The Assembly Standing orders clearly provide on matters that may be referred to a parliamentary select committee in part 21 (2) “A matter referred to a Select Committee may include –

  • Any proposed bill submitted to it by a Minister before its approval by the government and its introduction into the assembly; and
  • Any proposals for public expenditure (with any estimates of revenue) submitted to it by the Minister responsible for finance before their approval by the government and the introduction into the Assembly of a bill to authorise that expenditure”
  • In respect of a matter referred to it by a Minister a select committee must report to that Minister”

BCN news reached out to Assemblyman Ricky Makani who said that he cannot comment further on the matter at this time.

The chairperson of the board of directors of BCN says “The BCN board welcomes the setting up of a committee by the Niue Assembly to look at the operations of BCN.

BCN will fully cooperate and work together with the elected Assembly committee during the review on tv and radio services it delivers to the community”.

Meanwhile the Chairperson of the Telecom Niue Board Avi Rubin says that he cannot comment at this time as he has not been approached by anyone about this.

Rubin says that the Telecom Board is appointed by Cabinet and he has not been contacted by any member of parliament regarding concerns about the Board’s governance of the SOE Telecom Niue.

BCN news understands that a Terms of Reference will be developed and the members appointed before the Committee will commence its duties. There was no indication of time frame given for this undertaking or financial resources required.  

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