Reserve Bank governor tenders resignation in wake of Lord Sevele’s controversial appointment  

    The National Reserve Bank Governor Dr Sione Ngongo Kioa has allegedly handed in his resignation to the Minister of Finance Tatafu Moeaki, a reliable source told Kaniva News.

    Dr. Sione Ngongo Kioa, Governor, National Reserve Bank of Tonga. Photo/Supplied

    It is understood, Dr Kioa’s resignation letter was submitted on July 12 and is expecting a response from the government before October 12.

    The law allows the resignation to be received by the employer within three months before any decision was made.

    The Minister of Finance was contacted for comment.

    The news came after we were told in April that members of the bank’s board of directors queried Lord Sevele’s appointment as Chair of the country’s most important financial institution.

    Lord Sevele’s appointment drew strong criticisms from the public with PTOA activists asking if there was no one else in Tonga who would be a better fit for the post rather than Sevele.

    Critics have argued that since most of the businesses with which Lord Sevele has  been associated have ceased to function, he should not be regarded as a successful business operator. They did not believe the king’s noble was the right person for the job. His record while in government as Prime Minister and chairman of a number of boards and committees is open to question.

    The noble has been accused of being involved in the illegal transfer of million of dollars from a Chinese grant to Princess Pilolevu Tuita and Tongasat.

    The Supreme Court has declared the transfer as illegal.

    He was sacked as CEO of the organising committee for the 2019 Pacific Games that were going to be held in Tonga.

    In 2017 the then Prime Minister Akilisi Pōhiva withdrew the kingdom from hosting the  Games. He said he was unhappy with the financial budget organised by the organising committee chaired by Lord Sevele. 

    Lord Sevele was Prime Minister when the MV Ashika sank in 2009, killing 74 people.

    Some people were charged and jailed after the tragedy, including the captain of the vessel Makahokovalu Tuputupu, Acting Director of Marine and Ports Viliami Tu’ipulotu and John Jonesse the Managing Director  of the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia Ltd, which owned the vessel.

    However, critics said the prosecution should have brought to justice everybody involved, including Lord Sevele, who was accused of being instrumental in bringing the doomed vessel to Tonga.

    A 2012 Parliamentary report was set up to investigate how the Chinese loan to rebuild Nuku’alofa after the 2006 riot, was spent. An economic analyst believed the damage to the Nuku’alofa central business district could have been rebuilt with an estimate of around $20 to $30 million loan and asking why the Sevele government decided to borrow $118 million. The noble later said in an interview he thought that China would write off the loan.

    The Parliamentary report revealed Lord Sevele’s business City Assets business, which was formerly known as Molisi Tonga Ltd, was allowed to borrow money from the Chinese loan for its reconstruction without Parliament’s approval.

    The report said the allowances made for Lord Sevele over the loan were not publicised in Parliament and money for the City Assets building was simply embedded in the Government Budget of May 2011.

    In 2017, the Late Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva accused Lord Sevele and his City Assets business in Parliament of rejecting a demand from the Tongan government to sign a contract to make sure he is obliged to pay back the money he borrowed to rebuild his business.

    Pōhiva described Lord Sevele’s reactions against the demand in Tongan as being ‘evasive’.

    In his appointment as Chair of the Tonga Reserve Bank, Hon Moeaki said Lord Sevele would “manage any perceived conflict of interest on his part and any other members of the board.”

    As we wrote in in our commentary yesterday, there have been few if any definitive statements about how the bank will manage those concerns.

    Hon Moeaki also defended the appointment by saying that the Noble would bring experience to the position. He also denied there would be any conflict of interest.

    1 COMMENT

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