Ousting of Tonga’s TRU top positions unconstitutional IRB warned

The unsuccessful attempt by some of the board members of Tonga Rugby Union (TRU)  to hijack the chairmanship and the CEO position of the board resulted in a warning from IRB saying that it will end its financial assistance agreed for the union if they would not immediately resolve their differences according to TRU’s constitution.

Kaniva Tonga News report says board member Fuka Kitekeiʻaho accompanied by two security guards went to CEO ʻEmeline Tuita and confiscated the key to TRU Office.

Kitekei’aho told Tuita that she and President ʻEpeli Taione have been replaced by the board according to a resolution passed in a meeting on April 10.

Taione was out of the country at the time.

The motive behind the hijack apparently linked to an allegation that there is misuse of power and misappropriation of board’s funds by the TRUʻs chairman, ʻEpeli Taione.

It was also reported that the hijackers wanted the chairmanship of the TRU Board to be given to the Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano. Epeli Taione defeated Lord Tu’ivakano in their race to the chairmanship and presidency of the board in May 2012.

Taione has denied all accusation laid against him by the hijackers saying “All these people that involved here have either been kicked out of the union, didn’t get the job they applied for or have been dismissed for all sorts of reason. They discredited me while I was away in search for sponsorship for the Union and planning all Ikaletahi trip and firm up Tier One test for the next few years.”

Taione has confirmed to Kaniva News that TRU operation is running as normal and he is still the president of the TRU board.

Kaniva News sent an email to Soape Tuʻiono the deputy chairperson and was one of the hijackers but no response received yet.

IRB was informed

Immediately after the hijack Soape Tuʻiono emailed IRB on April 11 informing them that the two top positions of the TRU Board have been replaced.

But in his response, William Glenwright ,  IRB General Manager  for Oceania clarified that “The TRU is not validly applying its Constitution

He says “According to the minutes of the meeting of the TRU Board on 10 April 2013, the TRU Board resolved to ‘layoff the President and CEO with immediate effect”.

“Section 13 (2) of the TRU Constitution (Officers of the Union) clearly states that “The Officers shall be appointed in a Meeting of the Union”.

“Furthermore, nowhere Under Section 16 of the TRU Constitution (Powers and Duties of the Board of Directors) does the TRU Constitution give the TRU Board the authority to appoint Officers of the Union.

As such, the actions taken by the TRU Board at its meeting on 10 April 2013 are in breach of the TRU Constitution. Unions that do not validly apply their Constitutions place their membership of the IRB under review”.

The TRU is in breach of the Strategic Investment Agreement and the Development Grant Agreement

“Section 5.2 of the Strategic Initiatives Agreement states that the TRU: “operates its business in accordance with the best governance practices and procedures of a national sporting organisation responsible for the administration of a sport in its territory and in compliance with the good governance ethos of the IRB.”

“Furthermore, Section 5.11 of the Strategic Initiatives Agreement between the IRB and TRU states: “It (The TRU) shall notify the Head of Development and Performance of IRBT immediately it becomes aware of any issues which may adversely or negatively affect the SI Programme be it in terms of timing, finance, reputation, any changes in key personnel in particular those persons engaged by the Union pursuant to the Funding, reliability of SI Programme outcomes, achievement of KPIs and KMDs (where relevant) or otherwise.”

“Given the Constitutional breaches mentioned above, and the failure of the TRU to discuss the dismissal of the CEO with the IRB (nor notify the Head of Development and Performance of the decision), the IRB is of the view that the TRU is in breach of the Strategic Initiative Agreement. The consequences of which are clearly detailed in Section 9 (Termination) of the Agreement.

The TRU has not responded to IRB concerns over the governance of the Union

“At our meeting on 20 February 2013, we agreed that IRB funding of the TRU is suspended until receipt of a formal timetable to revert to the Constitution as developed by the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC). At this meeting, you suggested that 3 months would be required to revert to the Constitution as developed by the CRC so as to ensure compliance with the TRU Constitution.

Glenwright also said in his response to Tuʻiono that he has “yet to receive a formal undertaking by the TRU Board to revert to the Constitution as developed by the CRC and note it was not tabled for discussion at the meeting on 10 April 2013.

He therefore gave “the Board of the TRU until 5.00pm on Monday 15 April 2013 to provide a written undertaking to formally adopt the Constitution as developed by the CRC at a Special General Meeting to be called in accordance with the TRU Constitution. Failure to comply with this directive will result in the IRB commencing action to terminate, with immediate effect, both the Strategic Initiative Agreement and the Development Grant Agreement with the Tonga Rugby Union”.

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