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Tikoca Called A Liar By Prosecutor

Suspended Opposition Parliamentarian Isoa Tikoca was called a liar at the Magistrates Court in Suva by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption counsel, Rashmi Aslam. Mr Aslam made the assertion
14 Jan 2017 14:01
Tikoca Called A Liar By Prosecutor
Ratu Isoa Tikoca

Suspended Opposition Parliamentarian Isoa Tikoca was called a liar at the Magistrates Court in Suva by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption counsel, Rashmi Aslam.

Mr Aslam made the assertion after he established in court that Tikoca’s accountant in Papua New Guinea did not have access to his salary account for deduction because it was in Fiji.

The court, presided by Magistrate Makereta Mua, which was on its fifth day of the hearing, heard that Tikoca claimed that he had instructed his accounts officer Fonua Jioji in Papua New Guinea to do the deductions from his salary account.

Mr Aslam put it to Tikoca that it was not possible for his accounts officer to deduct from his salary, which he received because she did not have access or authority to do so because she was based in PNG and the salary account was in Fiji.

It was established, since she was based in PNG, she could not have access to do the relevant deductions.

The FICAC as prosecutors accused Tikoca for Failing to declare his liabilities before the 2014 general elections.

It is alleged that his failure was contrary to section 24 ( 2 ) ( a ) ( vii ) and section 24 ( 5 ) of the political parties registration, conduct, funding and disclosures decree number 4 of 2013.

Mr Aslam while cross examining Tikoca asked about the seven different payments that were made for his son’s education within the two and a half years from 2006 – 2008. Tikoca responded saying that the outstanding payments for his son’s education fees had commenced since August 18, 2008.

It was further put to Tikoca by Mr Aslam that when he made six different payments between May 2006 and August 2008 he never once paid the difference to which he replied saying he didn’t agree. Mr Aslam stated that Tikoca violated regulation 67 (5) with every payment he made for his son.

Tikoca said: “No, what had happened was a problem in the administration and I had personally rectified it myself hence I don’t owe the Government any money.”

Tikoca told the court that his salary was a fixed salary and he did not once check his pay slip to determine whether the deduction he claimed to have arranged with his accountant had ever been incurred till the Auditor General’s report was sent to him.

Tikoca confirmed sending a letter to the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in which he stated he wanted to clarify his situation.

When asked by Mr Aslam what he wanted to clarify, Tikoca responded saying he wanted to clarify the amounts which he disputed.

Tikoca consistently told the court that he expected to get the same treatment as his predecessor especially with the educational allowance and the system of payment.

Mr Aslam put it to Tikoca that former PNG high commissioner Inoke Kubuabola had paid the difference on time and had followed the regulation whereas in his case he had not paid any money within the stipulated time to which Tikoca disagreed.

According to a letter sent by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on August 18, 2008, Mr Aslam stated that the amount to be recovered from Tikoca was $117,266.07 which he has contested from the beginning.

Tikoca agreed that $1000 was deducted on 13 pay days from August 2008 and the deduction stopped in February 2009 when his tenure ended as the High Commissioner to PNG.

Mr Aslam stated that after Tikoca’s tenure ended he had yet to pay back the Government $94,526.73 to which he did not agree.

During re-examination defence lawyer Jolame Uludole stated to Tikoca that it was put to him that he had a liability to the Government which was within the five years preceding his nomination.

Tikoca replied saying: “I am a Member of Parliament and I make law, it clearly states anything beyond that five year should not be stated. I do not owe any liability to the government.”

Defence witness two – Minister for Defence Inoke Kubuabola

Mr Kubuabola told the court that he had sought a formal approval in writing from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to send his daughter to study in Australia.

Tikoca constantly referred to his predecessor (Mr Kubuabola) as the person he was following however it was established in court that he did not seek a formal approval like his predecessor.

Mr Aslam during cross examination asked Mr Kubuabola if he had received an approval in writing.

He stated that the approval was that he paid the difference that would be incurred between the school in Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Mr Kubuabola told the court that the full payment of the difference that had been incurred was made through his wife’s FNPF account and at the end of his tenure he did not have any liabilities or debt to the Government.

In examination chief defence lawyer Mr Uludole asked Mr Kubuabola if he had given any briefing to Tikoca regarding the educational allowance.

He responded saying that he did give a briefing based on the diplomatic and consular regulation of 2005.

He said that he told Tikoca that he had put his daughter in a school in Brisbane, Australia due to the security measures in PNG and had sought approval and was told to pay the difference.

Mr Uludole further asked Mr Kubuabola if he had given Tikoca a briefing regarding the payment of school fees to which he responded saying there was no briefing as he had received instructions himself during his time as the High Commissioner of Fiji to PNG to pay the difference.

Defence witness three – Asenaca Tikoca

Tikoca’s daughter Asenaca Tikoca was the third defence witness who took the stand to explain to the court why Tikoca insisted that he did not owe any money to the Government.

Ms Tikoca is an accountant who had done all the calculations when Tikoca was brought into FICAC for questioning and she was the one who had established that he had over paid the government.

Another defence lawyer Kitione Vuataki had asked Ms Tikoca to verify the bank statements and how she got the difference and why Tikoca was so certain that he didn’t owe the Government any money but rather the Government owes him $4436.34.

The next court hearing will be on Monday and Ms Tikoca will continue to give evidence.

Edited by Rusiate Mataika

Feedback: jessica.gounder@fijisun.com.fj

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