Public Service Tribunal declares attempt to move four public servants illegal

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The Public Service Tribunal has declared that the Secretary of Foreign Affairs Mr. Va’inga Tone, was acting illegally when he tried to redeploy four members of his department.

The tribunal ordered that the redeployment be cancelled.

The staff affected were Hon. Fanetupouvava’u Tu’ivakano, Deputy Secretary (Chief of Protocol), HSH Princess Marcella Kalaniuvalu Fotofili,  Senior Assistant Secretary,  Ms ‘Ilaisipa ‘Alipate ,Principal Assistant Secretary and Ms Elsie Fukofuka, Senior Assistant Secretary (Trade Desk Officer).

They appealed their transfer and the Tribunal ordered in September that the Public Services Commission put their transfer on hold pending a full appeal.

On July 26, Mr. Tone verbally informed the four public servants they would be permanently redeployed at the direction of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Samiuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva,  to various Ministries, effective from July 28.

Hon. Tu’ivakano was to be sent to the Ministry of Tourism.

HSH Princess Fotofili was to be redeployed to the Ministry of Public Enterprises.

Ms. ‘Alipate was to be assigned to the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.

Ms. Fukofuka was to be sent to the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Innovation and Labour.

On July 2016 26 the Acting Attorney General, Mr. ‘Aminiasi Kefu, e-mailed the  Secretary for Foreign Affairs, strongly advising him to refrain from implementing this decision until the PSC or Cabinet approved it, as per Public Service policy.

‘Akanesi Taufa, Acting Chief Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet, sent a message to the Acting Secretary for Foreign Affairs telling him of a direction from Lord Ma’afu, Minister in Charge and Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, to put the redeployment on hold until the Prime Minister returned from New Zealand.

However, in August, Tone told each of the affected public servants that they would be deployed temporarily from August 22. At this point they lodged a grievance procedure against the Secretary.

In September the Secretary of Foreign affairs wrote to them, ordering them to report to their new positions on September 15.

“Obey my instructions and avoid disobedience,” the Secretary wrote.

“Should you disobey, I will be forced to consider your disobedience a serious breach of discipline.”

On September 14, the Tribunal ordered that they should stay where they were until the appeal was heard.

The Tribunal said that despite having received advice from the Acting Attorney General about the illegality of the proposed redeployment, Tone persisted in trying to effect it.

The Tribunal heard that he then justified the transfer on the grounds that he did not have to seek permission from the Public service Commission and that it was justified on the grounds that it was part of a restructuring process.

However, the appellants argued that there was no such restructuring programming in place and that claims that they were being redeployed to strengthen other departments were not valid because all of their training and skills were dedicated to foreign affairs and diplomacy.

The Tribunal said any redeployment must be in one with overall ministerial goals and development.

“It was noted that the conduct of the Secretary for Foreign Affairs did not reflect prior planning, no specific time was allocated,  nor cost implications for the Ministry,” the Tribunal said.

“There being no legal basis for the proposed redeployment of the appellants, the logical and natural action is to cancel it” the Tribunal said.

“The proposed redeployment is cancelled.”

The main points

  • The Public Service Tribunal has declared that the Secretary of Foreign Affairs Mr. Va’inga Tone, was acting illegally when he tried to redeploy four members of his department.
  • On July 26, Secretary for Foreign Affairs Mr. Va’inga Tone verbally informed four public servants that they would be permanently redeployed at the direction of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Samiuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva.
  • They appealed their transfer and the Tribunal ordered in September that the Public Services Commission out their transfer on hold pending a full appeal.
  • The Tribunal has now ordered that the redeployment be cancelled.

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