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Tonga caretaker Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva’s cabinet passed a resolution Tuesday to enquire into a decision by sacked Finance Minister Tēvita Lavemaau to spend TP$80,000(US$36,351) on the opening of the new government house early this month.
Lavemaau disobeyed a cabinet decision rejecting his proposal to allow TP$22,000 (US$9,970) 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.
Lavemaau said in a statement 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 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 Lavemaau approved the request, but instead of approving TP$60,000 (US$27,176) he authorised TP$80,000 (US$36,351) to make sure the ceremony was organised successfully.
The committee spent about TP$75,000 (US$34,115) 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, 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 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.
According to the Constitution, “…caretaker Ministers shall not incur any unusual or unnecessary expenditure without the written approval of the caretaker Minister for Finance.”.
SOURCE: KANIVA NEWS/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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