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House is not paying for former PM’s expenses while on medical leave in US says Chief Clerk

Parliament is not paying for any of former Prime Minister Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa’s costs while he is seeking medical treatment in the United States.

The Chief Clerk of the Legislative assembly said Parliament was not responsible for his travel and medical costs.

Speaker Lord Fakafanua. Photo/Fale Alea ‘O Tonga

“The assembly has not paid any travelling allowance, airfare, medical expenses, nor any other expenses incidental to the MP’s travel or his medical treatment being sought,” the Chief Clerk said.

However, he was entitled to continue receiving his basic salary as an MP because he was on approved medical leave and remained a Member of the House.

The statement also denied that Parliament had paid for Hon. Tu’i’onetoa’s treatment in Sydney in 2017. We are willing to accept this statement in good faith.

However, we have Hon. Tu’i’onetoa’s own word from an interview in 2018 that his expenses were paid for from taxpayers’ money.

If that payment was not authorised by Parliament then it would be helpful to clarify under what circumstances it as paid.

Dr Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa. Photo/Kalino Lātū

The Chief Clark reiterated that the former Prime Minister’s extended medical leave had been approved by Parliament by circular, a method which caused some criticism when it was announced.

However, the Chief Clark has explained that a circular is used when decisions have to be made when the House is not sitting.

The Chief Clark’s statement is welcome.

Kaniva News believes it would be beneficial for the Chief Clark to regularly explain and clarify procedures and policies for the public.

This would improve communication between the House and taxpayers and help strengthen democracy in Tonga.