Court  favours PSC over dismissal of Tourism director who awarded catering contracts to her daughter’s  business

A Supreme Court judge has rejected a request by a former director at the Ministry of Tourism to review a PSC decision to dismiss her due to serious breach of discipline.

Mary Magdalena Tafa Fifita. Photo/Supplied

Mary Magdalena Tafa Fifita was a long-time Ministry employee who eventually held the position of director.

On 19 January 2024 she submitted an ex parte application for leave for judicial review and to strike out the PSC decision.

Fifita’s move came after a complaint was filed against her on 11 April 2023 with PSC.

It alleged that Fifita had given catering contracts to a firm run by her daughter, and this breached the rules for awarding such contracts.

The complaint was made by another senior staff at the Ministry, Sosaia Pahulu.

Following the complaint, the Ministry’s chief executive Mr Viliami Takau submitted a report saying Mr Pahulu’s concerns were valid.

Mr Takau also said the facts in Pahulu’s complaint constituted serious misconduct.

He also said Fifita had expressed her potential for conflict to the then chief executive who had gone on to sign the initial contract.

She was given a final warning and that there was a chance for her to be demoted.

On 27 October 2023 the PSC wrote to Fifita charging her with 27 counts of serious breaches of discipline. 

Fifita replied to PSC on 10 November 2023 disputing all allegations.

PSC wrote to her again on 29 November 2023 informing her of the disciplinary recommendations made by the chief executive of PSC.

She was told that in the event of the charges being proved she was liable to be dismissed from Public Service and the matter would be referred to Tonga Police to investigate.

Fifita responded again on 6 December 2023.

On 10 January 2024 the PSC wrote to her stating their decision number 2 of 2024 that she be dismissed from the Public Service as of 11 January 2024.

She was told the chief executive of the PSC was going to report the matter to Tonga Police to investigate.

After listening to both parties in court on the matters arose from the application submitted by Fifita and submission from the PSC, Justice Cooper ruled in favour of the PSC.

“I dismiss the application”, he said.  

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