The Minister of Health Saia Piukala is calling on TASANOC to stop making excuses and commit itself to paying back its $600,000 loan from the government according to its promise.
Hon. Piukala was the Acting Minister of Internal Affairs and Sports when a TASANOC team met with the Ministry in a bid to secure the loan.
He said he approved the loan after a written agreement between TASANOC and the government was endorsed by the government’s solicitor general.
The Minister was responding after TASANOC Secretary General Takitoa Taumoepeau said yesterday they did not want to pay back the loan and were urging the government to convert it into grant.
The Minister said the loan was granted after the Tonga Association of Sport and National Olympic Committee failed to send 59 athletes to PNG to represent the country at the Pacific Games 2015.
The athletes arrived at the Fua’amotu Airport expecting to depart for PNG, but were turned back because they did not have airline tickets.
They were expecting to meet TASANOC officials at the airport to hand out their tickets but they found out the officials had already left for PNG.
He said TASANOC promised him the loan would be paid back the “very next week” after receiving their share of funding from the Oceania and Olympic Games.
Hon. Piukala said he was disappointed after he read on Kaniva News yesterday that TASANOC members did not pay the loan as promised and later questioned its validity.
He said it was clear from the beginning the agreement for TASANOC to pay it back was legally binding.
He said the team from TASANOC included Hasiloni Fungavai, Dr.’Amanaki Fakakovikaetau, ‘Epeli Taione, Dr.Taniela Fusimalohi and heads of various sport federations whose athletes were left stranded at the airport.
TASANOC Secretary General Takitoa Taumopeau told Kaniva News an AGM in 2015 “challenged” the validity of the loan and asked whether the government is allowed to lend money to an individual or a private organisation.
The AGM told Taumoepeau to write to the Minister of Finance and urge him to convert the loan into a grant.
Hon. Piukala claimed the government had granted the national sports authority more than a million pa’anga before the loan to help prepare and send the athletes to PNG and for TASANOC to question the validity of the loan was nothing but just finding excuses which was unacceptable.
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