Inquiries after sacked Finance Minister disobeyed cabinet decision on TP$80,000 spending

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Government launches inquiry after sacked minister Tevita Lavemaau disobeyed cabinet decision. Photo/Kalino Lātū

Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva’s cabinet passed a resolution yesterday to enquire into a decision by sacked Finance Minister Tēvita Lavemaau to spend TP$80,000 on the opening of the new government house early this month.

Hon. Lavemaau disobeyed a cabinet decision rejecting his proposal to allow TP$22,000 to cover expenses on gifts and a party arranged as part of the ceremony, the Minister of Finance Dr. Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa told Kaniva News yesterday afternoon.

Hon. Lavemaau said in a press release in Tongan last week obtained by Kaniva News that the spending he authorised for the new government house was legal, fair, appropriate and suitable for such a ceremony.

Dr. Tu’i’onetoa alleged that he was told by the CEO of the Ministry of Finance that Hon. Lavemaau said he authorised the money because he has the power to do so when the government was under the caretaker mode.

The Minister of Finance has been directed to lodge a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman.

Dr. Tu’i’onetoa said an organising committee for the launch of the government house, known as St George palace, had requested TP$60,000 for the opening ceremony.

He said Hon. Lavemaau approved the request, but instead of approving TP$60,000 he authorised TP$80,000 to make sure the ceremony was organised successfully.

The committee spent about TP$75,000 of the money, Dr. Tu’i’onetoa said.

The money was used to cover the expenses for the ceremony including landscaping, gardening, the hire of tents, sound systems and a cocktail party.

Dr. Tu’i’onetoa said the money included  TP$22,000 which was intended to be spent on cultural activities and stuff such as ngatu, fihu and sila me’a’ofa (envelope of money) to be presented as gifts.

The former Auditor General said because the financial instructions did not say anything about spending on cultural activities and supplies, Hon. Lavemaau then sought the approval of the cabinet.

However, cabinet declined his request, he said.

He said while the policy allowed the minister to approve the TP$60,000 Hon. Lavemaau disobeyed the cabinet decision and paid out the TP$22,000 to the committee.

Dr. Tu’i’onetoa said a report from the Ombudsmen on the inquiries would be significant to his Ministry’s decision while the government was temporarily holding power.

As Kaniva News reported earlier, the Prime Minister said shortly after he sacked Hon. Lavemaau and the Deputy Prime Minister early this month he suspected his rejection of the proposal to spend TP$60,000 on the opening of the St George Palace had turned the pair against him.

In revealing the difference over the money between the cabinet and Hon. Lavemaau Hon. Pōhiva reportedly said if Lavemaau went ahead and authorise the money, it was illegal.

According to the Constitution,  “…caretaker Ministers shall not incur any unusual or unnecessary expenditure without the written approval of the caretaker Minister for Finance.”

The main points

  • The Tongan Cabinet passed a resolution this morning to enquire into a decision by sacked Finance Minister Tevita Lavemaau to spend TP$80,000 on the opening of the new government house.
  • Lavemaau disobeyed a cabinet decision rejecting his proposal to allow TP$22,000 to cover expenses, the Minister of Finance Dr. Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa told Kaniva News this afternoon.
  • Lavemaau said last week that the spending he authorised for the new government house was legal, fair and appropriate.
  • The Minister of Finance has been directed to lodge a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman.

For more information  

Rejection of TP$60,000 proposal  may have angered Deputy and Finance Minister, PM says

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  1. Kuo paasi ʻe he kapineti ʻa e ʻEiki PalēmiaʻAkilisi Pōhiva ha tuʻutuʻuni ke fakahoko ha fakaʻekeʻeke kau ki he tuʻutuʻuni ʻa e MInisitā Paʻanga kuo fakahifó ke ngāueʻaki ʻa e paʻanga $80,000 ki hono fakaava ʻo e fale puleʻanga foʻou ʻi he konga ki muʻa ʻo e māhina ní.

    Naʻe talangataʻa ʻa Lavemaau ki ha tuʻutuʻuni ʻa e kapinetí ke ʻoua ʻe tali ke fakangofua ʻa e paʻanga ʻe $22,0000 ki he ngaahi fakamole ki he ngaahi meʻaʻofa mo e paati ne fokotuʻutuʻu ko e konga ʻo e kātoangá, ko e lau ʻeni ʻa e Minisitā Paʻangá ki he Ongoongo ʻa e Kanivá he hoʻatā efiafi ʻaneafí.

    Naʻe pehē ʻe Lavemaau ʻi ha fakamatala tuku ange atu ʻi he lea faka-Tongá he uike kuo ʻosí ʻa ia ne maʻu ʻe he ongoongo ʻa e Kanivá ko e fakamole kotoa naʻá ne fakaʻatā ki he fale puleʻanga foʻou naʻe fakalao, taau, feʻunga pea tuha pe ia mo ha kātoanga pehē.

    Ne pehē foki ʻe Dr. Tuʻiʻonetoa naʻe fakahā ange ʻe CEO ʻa e Potungāue Paʻangá naʻe fakahā ʻe Lavemaau naʻá ne fakangofua ʻa e paʻangá koeʻuhī he ʻokú ne maʻu pe ʻa e mafai ko ia ʻi he taimi ʻoku leʻoleʻo ai ʻa e puleʻangá ʻi he mafai pulé.

    Kuo tuʻutuʻuni ki he Minisitā Paʻangá ke fakahū atu ha lāunga ki he ʻŌfisi ʻo e ʻOmipatimení.

    Naʻe pehē ʻe Dr. Tuʻiʻonetoa naʻe kole ʻe ha kōmiti fokotuʻutuʻu ʻa hono huufi ʻo e fale puleʻangá, ʻa ia kuo ʻiloa ko e palasi Sā Siaosí ha paʻanga ʻe $60,000 ki he kātoanga hūfí.

    Naʻá ne pehē naʻe tali ʻe Lavemaau ʻa e kolé, ka ne fakalahi ʻe ia ʻo tali ʻa e paʻanga ʻe $80,000 ke fakafaingamālieʻi pe fie maʻú ke lava lelei.

    Ko e paʻanga pe ʻe $75,000 ne fakamolekí, ko e lau ia ʻe Dr, Tuʻiʻonetoá.

    Ko e paʻanga ko ʻení naʻe fakamoleki ia ki he kātoangá kau ai ʻa e teuteuʻi fakamatamata lelei ʻo tuʻá (leenisikeipingí), tōngoueʻi (kāteningi), haea ʻo ha ngaahi tēniti, ngaahi meʻa fakaongo leʻolahi mo e paati.

    Naʻe pehē ʻe Dr. Tuʻiʻonetoa naʻe kau mai ʻi he kole paʻanga ko ʻeni ha paʻanga ʻe TP$22,000 ʻa ia ne taumuʻa ia ke fakamoleki ki he ngaahi ouau fakafonua mo e koloa hangē ko e ngatu, fihu mo e sila meʻaʻofa ke foaki ko e ngaahi meʻaʻofa.

    Naʻe pehē ʻe he ʻĀtita Seniale ki muʻá koeʻuhi naʻe ʻikai ha tuʻutuʻuni ʻa e fakahinohino ʻa e fale paʻangá ki he ngaahi meʻa fakaangafakafonua peheé naʻe ʻave ai ʻe Lavemaau ha fokotuʻu ki he kapineti ke tali ʻa e fakamole ko ʻení.

    Neongo ia naʻe ʻikai tali ʻeni ia ʻe he kapinetí.

    Pehē ʻe Dr. Tuʻiʻonetoa lolotonga ʻoku fakaʻatā ʻe he founga ngāue ʻa e minisitaá ke ne fakaʻatā ʻi hono mafaí ʻa e paʻanga ʻe $60,000 ka naʻá ne talangataʻa ki he tuʻutuʻuni kapinetí ʻo ne totongi atu ʻe ia paʻanga ʻe $22,000 ki he kōmití.