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

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

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

Right now Kaniva News provides a free, politically independent, bilingual news service for readers around the world that is absolutely unique. We are the largest New Zealand-based Tongan news service, and our stories reach Tongans  wherever they are round the world. But as we grow, there are increased demands on Kaniva News for translation into Tongan on our social media accounts and for the costs associated with expansion. We believe it is important for Tongans to have their own voice and for Tongans to preserve their language, customs and heritage. That is something to which we are strongly committed. That’s why we are asking you to consider sponsoring our work and helping to preserve a uniquely Tongan point of view for our readers and listeners.

Latest news

Related news