DEBATE on the motion moved by the government to dismiss the Auditor General is still at a deadlock.
The motion was signed by the Hon. Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano and the Hon. Finance, National Planning and Revenue Services, Sunia Fili.
It relates to various accusations made by government claiming the Auditor General Mr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa have breached various legislations and ethics relating to audit work.
In the resolution three major allegations were made against Tu’i’onetoa that includes publishing derogatory comments about New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister , publishing information on NZ Aid money audit report yet it hasn’t been discussed by members of the House.
Under the Public Audit Act 2007 an auditor general is appointed by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Speaker. Under any circumstance for any removal of the auditor general from office, it requires a two-thirds majority vote of the Legislative Assembly.
The House was informed that the New Zealand’s High Commissioner made a direct complaint to government with regards to misleading information by the Auditor General made on January 18, 2012 that breaches section 24 clauses 4 and section 27 of the International Audit Act 2007 and the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions.
“The Auditor General on January 18th 2012 breached his mandated authority authorised by the law when he spoke and criticised the Foreign Affairs told TV NZ One News by saying the Minister is “two faced”. Such critical comment damage Tonga and New Zealand’s diplomatic ties.
It also breaches clauses nine, 10, and 24 section four and clause 27 of the International Audit Law 2007 and the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions ,” according to the motion.
The allegation also alleges that payments of public audit works of the Public Service Board Retirement were paid into his personal bank account from July 2006 – June 2010 worth TOP$52,330.00.
This includes payments of TOP$39,130 made to Tu’i’onetoa’s personal bank account on July 6th 2006, TOP$1000.00 on December 16th 2006, and TOP $4,700.00 in June 2010 and another deposit of TOP$7,500.00 to his account in June 25th last year.
However the motion revealed that all payments for public audit works are supposed to be deposited into various public funds accounts as cited under the care of the Finance Ministry.
According to the resolution Mr. Tu’i’onetoa is a member of the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institution and therefore what happened is a conflict of interest with his mandated power.
In respond to the accusations, the Speaker of the House, Lord Lasike read a response letter to Parliament from the accused where Mr. Tu’i’onetoa refuted all these accusations made against him.
“I never made any comment to TV One News that NZ Foreign Affairs Minister was two faced and I never criticise the Kiwi government and the Foreign Affairs Minister…and I never breach the section 24 clauses four and section 27 of the Public Audit Act 2007.
"Maybe that was the interpretation made by TV One News after I spoke with Setita Finau whom I just found later that she is from the TNEWS."
The first news coverage of my report was first broadcast on Radio New Zealand followed by comments made by the former PM, Feleti Sevele that I was lying after the independence audit came out that “Tonga audit finds no evidence of fraud."
This was before it was discussed in Parliament. I had to respond and rebutted his comments because it was in the public interest. This is to avoid misleading the public and there was an urgency to uphold the integrity of the works of the Auditor,” according to the Auditor’s General.
With regards to claims that public funds worth TOP$39,130 was deposited to his personal account in July 2006, Mr. Tu’I’onetoa pointed out that it was carried out in a legal means and that audit fee was paid out for the work overtime of his staff.
“…What a pity that this issue is now raised making it sound like someone was stealing it. But it’s the bank’s policy that withdrawal of such large sums of monies cannot be cashed unless it’s first deposited into an account. This was deposited into my account before it is withdrew and distributed to staff according to their respective work overtime hours, according to Mr. Tu’i’onetoa’s letter.
He also maintained the TOP$1000.00 and TOP$4740 payment from urgency audit works in December 2006 and July 2009 respectively went through the same process and all were accounted for the work overtime of his staff.
The Auditor General also denied all allegations including accusation that he also tried to relocate the Audit’s office to his home for financial benefits.
However he told parliamentarians that he offered his house as an office space for the Audit’s office at no cost.
“I have yet to breach any law or the work ethics but what I did was saving some of the public funds,” said Mr. Tu’i’onetoa.
Deliberations on the issue are ongoing in the House with various motions being submitted including a referral of the case to a selective committee.
Mr. Tu’i’onetoa assumed the Auditor General position since 1983.