Tribunal overturns Cabinet Secretary’s dismissal; orders PSC to pay court costs

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Busby Kautoke

The Public Service Tribunal has overturned the dismissal of Busby Kautoke as Chief Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet in August 2012.

The appeal was heard after several years’ delay.

During this time there was a certain amount of legal manouvreing and it proved impossible to convene the appropriate people to hear the case until last month.

The appeal was heard by a tribunal chaired by Lord Tupou, KC and with Laki Niu, SC and Timote Katoanga as members.

Mr Kautoke was dismissed over allegations of financial impropriety concerning the apparent disappearance of more than $1 million relating to the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Programme.

A later audit found this figure to be inaccurate.

It was alleged that Kautoke had failed to adequately supervise transactions relating to the CER programme, but it was pointed out that responsibility for the finances had been transferred from the Prime Minister’s office to the Ministry of Finance and National Planning.

Lord Tu’ivakano was Prime Minister at the time of Mr Kautoke’s dismissal.

A number of procedural issues in the dismissal were considered in the hundreds of pages of written evidence that has accumulated over the years.

The Tribunal said the charges laid against Mr Kautoke were invalid and could not be used to terminate his contract under any provision of the Public Service Act 2002; any Public Service Regulations or  the Public Finance Management.

The tribunal therefore ruled that his dismissal be set aside.

“Any entitlement of his to salaries to be reimbursed to him for his  dismissal would be substantially reduced and lost by reason of payment of the costs of this appeal,” the Tribunal’s report said.

“That cannot be fair.”

The Public Service Commission has therefore been ordered to pay Mr Kautoke’s court costs.

The main points

  • The Public Service Tribunal has overturned the dismissal of Busby Kautoke as Chief Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet in August 2012.
  • The appeal was heard by a tribunal chaired by Lord Tupou, KC and with Lal Niu, SC and Timote Katoanga as members.
  • Mr Kautoke was dismissed over allegations of financial impropriety concerning the apparent disappearance of more than $1 million.
  • The Tribunal said the charges laid against Mr Kautoke were invalid and ruled that his dismissal be set aside.

For more information 

Court orders Tribunal to reconvene and consider Cabinet Secretary’s appeal again 

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