“I swear under oath that I do not owe the government any money but the government owes me money.”
Ratu Isoa Tikoca made this statement as he took the stand as the first defense witness in his case in the Suva Magistrates Court yesterday.
Tikoca said he has already paid the difference in fees between Port Moresby International School and St Joseph’s Nudgee College in Brisbane, Australia.
On Monday, the first prosecution witness, Kelera Nukutaumaki had said it was recommended that diplomats send their children to the International School in the country they are serving.
She had told the court if diplomats would send their children to a school other than the designated school then they would have to pay for the costs themselves.
When asked by defense counsel, Kitione Vuetaki if he owed the government $94,526.73 in September 2009, Tikoca said he does not owe the government any money because he had paid off the difference in fees for the two schools in the middle of February 2009.
The suspended parliamentarian told court that deduction from his salary started when there was communication from the Ministry of Finance for the recovery of the money which he supposedly owed.
He said he had $1,000 deducted from 13 pays by the Ministry of Finance and this was done to pay for the difference in fees between Port Moresby International School and St Joseph’s Nudgee College in Brisbane, Australia.
Tikoca is charged with failure to declare his liabilities contrary to section 24 of the Political Parties Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures Decree.
It is alleged that Tikoca failed to declare the liability and the amount of the liability to the Registrar, the Permanent Secretary responsible for Elections that he had incurred to the Government of Fiji during his tenure as Fiji’s High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea.
The first prosecution witness, Former Director Corporate Affairs for the Foreign Affairs Ministry Kelera Nukutaumaki had told the court that Tikoca had used $94,526.73 for his son’s education at St Joseph’s Nudgee College in Brisbane, Australia.
Tikoca also told the court that it was the current Minister for National Security, Defense and Immigration, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola that had recommended him to send his youngest son, Isoa Tikoca Junior to St Joseph's College, Nudgee in Brisbane, Australia.
Tikoca told the court that in 2006, Kubuabola who was the outgoing PNG High Commissioner at the time had recommended that he send his son who was at Natabua High School to be educated in Australia.
Tikoca said they met at a hotel in Brisbane for his briefing as the new Fiji High Commissioner to PNG.
According to Tikoca, Kubuabola had said to bring his son to Australia because there was a facility available.
Tikoca said he was satisfied with the recommendation.
Tikoca then told the court that when he asked Kubuabola about the school fees, Kubuabola said the admin accounts officer was familiar with the payment of education fees overseas, specifically in Australia.
While being examined by defense counsel, Kitione Vuetaki, Tikoca said the education fund allocated for Ratu Inoke Kubuabola’s daughter was also continued for his son.
He said he had notified his staff if the same arrangement made for Kubuabola could be made for him in terms of education assistance.