John Paul Chapman resigned Friday as director of Tonga’s Utilities Board amid what Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa has alleged as ” incompetence, neglect of duty, misconduct, or failing to assist the public enterprise to act in accordance with the principal objective.”
Chapman has denied the allegations.
In a letter from Tu’i’onetoa to Chapmain on June 11 seen by Kaniva News the Prime Minister in his role as Minister of Public Enterprises told the former director he “owed a duty of care” to Tonga Power Ltd (TPL).
“You failed to advise the TPL Board about the Trust’s decision on the 17th December, 2020 to pay out the retirement funds entitlements up to 30 June, 2020 to the employees despite repeated requests by the Board for your advice on the status of the Trust funds;
“To date you have missed 4 TPL Board meetings and that you have indicated your willingness to voluntarily resign provided that you be paid the full director fee to the end of your appointment.
The Prime Minister then gave Chapman 14 days to reply to his accusation if not he will dismiss him according to the Public Enterprise Acts.
In denying the Prime Minister’s allegations Chapman said: “Needless to say I do deny all
the allegations however I am very sorry and embarrassed about the situation.
“I do not wish to waste your time and energy on discussing issues that I believe are motivated by other factors. And regardless – these issues are beneath your status as a Minister and Prime Minister and I have been embarrassed by our Chairman and our board’s continued focus on non value adding issues”.
Change of heart
After the e-mails between the Prime Minister and Chapman were leaked to media the Prime Minister remarkably changed his tune.
In a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday, Tu’i’onetoa said Chapman has requested to resign for personal reasons due to his intended overseas travel to his family.
“Mr. Chapman’s request, has been accepted with no cause or allegations against him or vice versa, by any Utility board, by the Tonga Power Ltd (TPL) Trustees or TPL Retirement Fund or by the Ministry of Public Enterprises”, the Prime Minister said.
Push to terminate Chapman
Leaked emails seen by Kaniva News appear to show that TPL Chairman Dr Aisake Eke and Board member Ipolito Lasalo allegedly wrote to the Prime Minister and recommended terminating Chapman’s directorship in February despite auditors reporting that everything was working correctly under Chapman’s directorship.
The emails also appear to show that KPMG audited the Tonga Power “Trustees Account annually and issued clean bill of health up to 30 June 2020”.
At the direction of the Board for a second audit, “Tonga Audit Office was engaged to audit the board’s retirement fund from the period 1 July 2020 to 31 January 2021 and once again issued a clean bill of health”.