The Interim CEO of the Electricity Commission (EC), Paula Tupou, and Commissioner Seinimili Tu’i’onetoa Fonua have clashed over an inquiry by the Public Service Commission (PSC) into an alleged breach of employment regulations.
Fonua has opposed a move by Tupou to call a meeting to deal wth a request by the PSC into the legal status of Fonua’s employment contract with the commission.
It is understood the CEO of the PSC, Dr Lia Maka, has asked Tupou to provide her with information regarding the times and dates Fonua attended the Commission’s affairs in her capacity as a commissioner and lawyer.
Kaniva Tonga has seen an e-mail apparently sent from Maka to Tupou which reads: “With reference to the Ms Fonua, I kindly request information as to the times she attends and length of days etc as in her contract Electricity Commission Affairs please.”
But when Tupou circulated an e-mail telling the Commission’s secretary to put the PSC request in the EC’s agenda, Fonua turned against Tupou.
Fonua said the EC should not deal with the request from PSC.
She implied that there had previously been a move to sack Tupou.
In Tongan she wrote: “Kapau na’e tali pe hono fakahifo na’a tau nounou.”
This translates into English as: “If his dismissal was approved we would not go this far.”
Fonua claimed the request by the PSC fell outside the Commission’s laws and what Tupou had requested.
In her reponse to Tupou’s request for the meeting, Fonua said if the EC discussed Dr Maka’s request she wanted the EC to discuss what she claimed was Tupou’s lack of effort in having the Commission’s pension fund audited.
Tupou told Kaniva it had been about two weeks since the request from PSC, but the chairman of the EC had not called a meeting to consider the request.
As Kaniva reported last week, Fonua has sued Tupou for unruly behaviour in a public place.
It is understood six charges have been laid against Tupou.
Tupou alleged that for more than nine months Fonua, who is a civil servant, has been in breach of the Public Service Act 2010 section 19 which says “employees shall not engage in any paid employment outside the Public Service without authorisation from Cabinet or the commission for short term consultancy.”
Fonua is serving a three year term as Commissioner in the Electricity Commission, receiving a salary and meeting fees while she is also Deputy CEO of the Ministry of Public Enterprises.
Tupou claimed that when Cabinet appointed Fonua as a Commissioner in the Electricity Commission in October last year, she was still employed in the Legislative Assembly, a non-civil service body. The appointment was legal and proper, he said.
He claimed that when Fonua accepted employment with the Ministry of Public Enterprises on October 30 last year she breached the PSC Act and should have resigned immediately from the Electricity Commission.
Tupou also claimed that Fonua failed to comply with the requirement to disclose any interests requirements under the Act.
He said she should have declared her employment with the Ministry as a conflict of interest while she was a Commissioner.
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