Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa recalled moments of struggle and how difficult it was in Tonga while he was a high school student to have enough book keeping teachers to lead the subject.
He said he was lucky to have passed the subject at the New Zealand University Entrance Examination while studying at Tupou High School.
He was then given a scholarship by the Tonga government to study in New Zealand in accounting in early 1980s.
He said scholarships were rare at the time.
Hon. Tu’i’onetoa was delivering a speech in Nuku’alofa at the Fa’onelua Convention Centre where he was made a Fellow of the Institute of Certified Management Accountants of Australia (FCMA).
The FCMA focuses on management accounting and has more than 10,000 members around the world.
The award was presented by the Australian High Commissioner, HE Mr. Adrian Morrison, on behalf of the Institute, (ICMA).
The Prime Minister said the award added more credibility to his educational backgrounds as well as any financial reports he had to sign.
He said the abbreviation FCMA would be added to his official signature.
The Prime Minister was emotional during his speech. He mentioned family members who supported his studies and teachers who first introduced him to book keeping.
“It was a tough time as I came through so many struggles,” he said.
He said his first teacher in book keeping was the late Rev. Taasi Kale from Makave, Vava’u while he was studying at Tupou College.
His second book keeping teacher was the late Tongan accountant Albin Johansson when he studied at Tupou High School.
He said he became interested in book keeping, but he never knew that one day it would become his bread and butter.
He said he rewarded his mother by sharing with her the money from his salary when he returned from study in New Zealand and was employed by the government as Tonga’s Auditor General.
Hon. Tu’i’onetoa said he told his mother he wanted to be of any use to her before she died.
But his mother gave him advice he never forgot.
“Thanks for that,” his mother said.
“But it was my responsibility to educate you . . . it was meant for you to be an asset to your family and the future generation,” his late mother told him.
He said the Free Wesleyan Church which owned the Tupou College and Tupou High School could not afford to pay for a book keeping teacher at the time to teach at Tupou High School.
He said Albin offered to teach accounting free at Tupou High School twice a week. Albin’s daughter, an accountant and auditor, ‘Aloma Johansson, spoke during the ceremony.
The Prime Minister passed the book keeping University Entrance examination level before he applied for a government scholarship and went and studied in New Zealand.
He graduated as a Chartered Accountant (CA) from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand in 1982.
In 1999 he became a Fellow Chartered Accountant (FCA) from the Institute of Chartered Accountant of New Zealand.
He also has a M.Bus (Acc) and a Master of Business (Accounting) from Monash University, Melbourne in Australia.
He said the treasurer and accountant roles were significant anywhere, including churches and governments.
He said money could throw almost every group, family, clubs, women’s weaving groups, ex-students into disarray.
“The trustworthiness of the treasurers is important,” he said.
He had a message for the students who attended the ceremony last week and those who were listening online.
He said discipline was of paramount importance for accountants and treasurers.
“Discipline, to you students if you are listening, it would be assessed in many years after you finished studying and worked before this kind of award is being conferred on somebody because of their experience and trustworthiness.”
The speech was conveyed both in Tongan and English.
Speaking in English Hon. Tu’i’onetoa said he faced many struggles from the 1970s until the 1990s.
He said he used his accounting professionalism “to assist the decision makers, including the leaders to make well calculated decisions based on the accuracy, the reliability, credibility and with complete financial information that are provided and audited on a timely basis in order to help government ministries, the people and business community to make the right, true and fair decisions.”