The Minister of Finance said his appointment of his niece, lawyer Seimimili Tu’i’onetoa Fonua, as a Commissioner of the Electricity Commission (EC) did not breach the government’s employment regulations.
Hon Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa said accusations that he had practised nepotism after he appointed his niece as EC Commissioner was “misinformation.”
According to the Minister, the law only required him to make sure he was confident the appointee could do the job well according to their qualifications and experiences, no matter whether they were his cousins or relatives.
He claimed it was only when it came to Inland Revenue laws that it was necessary to define who were the immediate family and dependant relatives.
The Minister said the Tongan context of extended family, in which the first and second cousins were called brothers and sisters or daughters and sons, had no place in the employment laws.
Hon Tu’i’onetoa claimed the appointment of Fonua by the EC while she was an employee of the Ministry of Public Enterprises was legal and did not breach any laws.
The Minister claimed the government commissioners’ appointments were political and they were made under the direction of the Cabinet.
In his letters appointing two new commissioners to the EC on Monday, Hon. Tu’i’onetoa told Commissioner Sitiveni Fe’ao and Commissioner Sione Manumanu that he had the freedom to revoke their appointments as he pleased.
The Minister said the Commissioners were not appointed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) like other CEOs and civil servants so the PSC had no legal right to challenge him when appointing or dismissing a Commissioner.
He said the Cabinet’s rules on the appointment of government commissioners overrode PSC rules and Acts.
Hon Tu’i’onetoa said some medical doctors and many other civil servants held two jobs and became members of government Boards and Commissions under the direction of the Cabinet.
“That is not illegal, as long as they get the authorisation from Cabinet,” the Minister said.
As Kaniva reported earlier this week, former EC Interim Commissioner Paula Tupou accused his co-outgoing Commissioner lawyer Fonua of illegally holding the post of Commissioner while employed by the Ministry of Public Enterprises as Deputy CEO.
Fonua denied this and said Tupou’s argument did not apply under the Commission’s laws.
Fonua resigned on Thursday, August 2 while Cabinet terminated Tupou’s contract on Friday, August 3 citing “inability to perform” their functions.
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