Tongan Auditor blames top official for missing aid | Pacific Beat

Tongan Auditor blames top official for missing aid

Tongan Auditor blames top official for missing aid

Posted 25 November 2011, 18:00 AEDT

Tonga's Auditor-General says the Chief Secretary in the prime minister's office should accept responsibility for missing aid funds and resign.

Dr.Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa says four hundred thousand Tongan dollars is missing from a fund of one and a half million dollars given by Australia and New Zealand to help Tonga's constitutional reform process.

He reported that the money was unaccounted for last year, and says the blame must rest with the head of the prime minister's office who was responsible for the money.

Busby Kautoke, Chief Secretary in the Prime Minister's office and Secretary to Cabinet, says he's restricted in what he can say about the Auditor-General's comments about him.

He says the Public Service Commission is going through a formal process of examining the issue at the moment, and it would be inappropriate for him to comment while that is happening.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Dr.Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa, Tonga's Auditor-General

TU'I'ONETOA: Well the money is missing, when it is not there, it's already spent, that's missing, but to me that's missing, but the next question is how did you spend that money? Can you prove to me that you spent in on a proper course or not and they could not give me that evidence to support that. What I'm looking for that no more evidence like I've got the receipt, I've got my invoices, I thought that I can decide whether those payments are paid to receipt made purposes.

HILL: Which group of officials was it, in which department that were responsible for the spending but couldn't account for how it was spent?

TU'I'ONETOA: We are talking about the foreign minister's office and because of the culture at the office at the time, you cannot really trace who specifically responsible for the payment, because they cashed the cheque. Many people involved in this, so I put the blame on the top guy at the office. He should beat the leader to look after how they spend the money.

HILL: So your recommendation was that this person step down.

TU'I'ONETOA: Should be disciplined by the Public Service Commission.

HILL: So your recommendation was the head of the prime minister's department should step down. Obviously he's still there, so that wasn't acted on. What do you think should happen about this missing $400,000 then?

TU'I'ONETOA: Of course, the New Zealand and Australia will request if they could not produce evidence, that they were properly paid, they're probably accounted for, plus money had to be according to the term of the game would be returned to New Zealand and Australia. But if that happens, that will be a government of Tonga has to find some money to replace that, but to me we should discipline somebody in that office for the disappearance of the money without any concrete evidence.

HILL: The fact that your recommendations that the head of the Prime Minister's office who was responsible for the spending of this money didn't step down. How concerned are you that your advice wasn't followed?

TU'I'ONETOA: I'm still waiting the next processes should be the Public Service Commission should come back to me and we discuss. There's a process of doing that and there is a certain time that the law will give for them to respond to the seriousness of my report and then discussions, then the disciplinary procedures will go from there. It'll take a while, because from the Public Service Commission, they will write down the charges, give to the person, give it time to respond and then will take about a month before the actual decision.

HILL: Are you concerned though about the fact that your recommendations weren't acted on promptly, that it's taken this long and you still might not necessarily get the result that you were looking for?

TU'I'ONETOA: Of course I'm concerned, but that and also I recognise it's my responsibility to give a recommendation and that's it. The actual decision on my recommendation is the cabinet and the Public Service Commission.

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