Wednesday 19th October 2016
Nuku’alofa Times - Page 05
Hot debate over Cabinet Minister’s debt to government
By Pesi Fonua NUKU’ALOFA (Nuku’alofa Times): A revelation that the Treasury transferred money to a bank account of the former Auditor General, now a Cabinet Minister Hon. Pohiva Tu’ionetoa, who still owed government more than $6000 was hotly debated in the Tongan Parliament yesterday, 17 October. An Independent Auditor’s report on the Office of the Auditor’s General during the 2014 and 2015 financial years was presented to the Tongan Parliament by the Hon. Tevita Lavemaau, the chairman of the Standing Committee on Finance and Public Accounts. Two controversial findings by the Independent Auditor, were the transference by the Treasury of money straight
into the bank account of the Auditor General, from which he paid his staff, tax free for working over time, and another issue of a pay cheque paid in advance for the Auditor General. The Auditor General ran for parliament in the general election of 2014 and won a seat as the People’s Representative for Constituent No. 10. He was later appointed as a Minister of Police, Labour, Commerce, Industries and Trade. Hon. Pohiva Tu’ionetoa ceased to be an Auditor General at the end of 2014 and allegedly owed government more than $6000. According to the report, when the former Auditor General was informed that he owed government more than $6000, his response was that government still
owed him unpaid allowances. The decision by government to hire an independent auditor to scrutinize the work of the Auditor General, was welcomed by the Minister of Finance, Hon. ‘Aisake Eke. He told the House that the general reaction was that since government ministries are audited by the Auditor General, it was good for the work of the Auditor General to be independently audited.
Attitudes The debate over the Independent Auditor’s report brought to the surface how some Cabinet Ministers and some Members of Parliament regarded the misuse
American Ambassador to visit Tonga
NUKU’ALOFA (Nuku’alofa Times): The American Ambassador Judith Cefkin will visit Tonga from October 31 to November 4 and will host a roundtable discussion with Tonga journalists. The American Embassy in Suva, Fiji said the purpose of Ambassador Cefkin’s
visit is to encourage a better understanding of the United States and its relationship with the Pacific Island nations, through cultural and education literacy outreach. Ambassador Cefkin will also officially visit the opening ceremony of Phase 2 of the project on the preservation of the 12th-Centu-
ry Royal Tombs of Tonga funded through the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation on Wednesday, November 2. She will then meet with local journalists on November 3. Ambassador Cefkin is based in Suva and serves Tonga from there as well.
of government money as common practice within government. The Prime Minister, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva raised the issue that it was a former practice of the House for members to be given their whole year salary following the opening of parliament every year. He pointed out that when some died before the end of the year they had already been paid in advance. Even the Minister of Justice, Hon Vuna Fa’otusia, reminded the House that mistakes could be made. There was a short fall, and it would be repaid. In response to the PM’s remark, Lord Nuku reminded the House that even today members of Parliament are paid even when they are not working. Lord Fusitu’a insisted that the law was infringed and something has to be done about it.
Hon. Pohiva Tu’ionetoa The Prime Minister and some Cabinet Ministers were eager for the new Chairman of the Whole House Committee, Hon. Veivosa Light of Day Taka, who was selected that morning, to call for the Committee to vote on the report. They had confidence that they had the number to win the vote and pass the report.
Reputation Lord Nuku and Lord
Tu’iha’angana expressed their concern that if they voted on the report it would be passed, but it would not be good for the reputation of the House. Lord Nuku moved a motion for the report to be tabled into the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Legislation. The chairman called for vote on the last motion for the report to be tabled into the Standing Committee on Legislation. It was carried 10-9.
Lights off at Fua’amotu airport
NUKU’ALOFA (Nuku’alofa Times): Lights at the Fua’amotu International Airport runway did not work on Tuesday night, forcing flights to be turned away. It has been confirmed that Virgin Australia and Air
New Zealand had to divert their aircrafts away from Tonga when they were not able to land because the lights were not working. The Air New Zealand flight NZ974 had to fly to Fiji instead. Virgin’s flight re-
turned to Australia. While Tonga Airports Limited’s Viliame Maake has confimed to some of the local media that flights have resumed today, the Nuku’alofa Times is awaiting official word from the company.
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