‘Unuaki ‘o Tonga denies serious fraud allegations, threatens to sue Dr Viliami Latu

The director of the ‘Unuaki ‘o Tonga Royal Institute (UTRI),  ‘Akosita Lavulavu, has denied claims by the Nepituno website that she and her husband ‘Etuate Lavulavu defrauded  the government of hundreds of thousands of pa’anga.

Nepituno is operated by ‘Etuate’s political rival, Dr Viliami Latu.

‘Akosita Lavulavu  told Kaniva News the Nepituno article had been copied and printed by other newspapers in Tonga, but none of them had contacted her or UTRI to obtain their side of the story.

She said the allegations against her and her husband were untrue and based on malicious intention and political bitterness.

She said she was filing a lawsuit against Dr Latu and the local newspapers.

Dr Latu claimed the Lavulavus faked the counting of students enrolled at UTRI so they could claim more funding from the Tonga National Qualifications and Accreditation Board (TNQAB).

Dr Latu claimed a complaint to the TNQAB had been made by some of the teachers at UTRI.

According to the website the complainants claimed the Lavulavus misled the nation by declaring that the school’s mission was to help young people, when in fact the students were used to collect money.

The Nepituno report  said UNTRI’s claim that it had between 400 – 500 students was untrue.

It said the teachers who made the complaint claimed they often rowed with ‘Etuate over their pay.

The Nepituno story said when they contacted TNQAB to check if a complaint had been received, it was told there was a complaint about the UTRI, but it was not processed because none of the complainants was willing to come forward and sign it.

‘Akosita Lavulavu  said TNQAB had told UTRI no complaint had been received.

She said she was told by TNQAB that if there had been a complaint against UTRI it would have gone through a formal process and UTRI would have been formally contacted.

‘Akosita said UTRI could not dupe the government on the number of the students it enrolled because the counting was done by officers from TNQAB and the numbers had to be audited.

She said claims on the Nepituno website that UTRI had 400 – 500 students were untrue as they only had about 100 enrollees.

She said UTRI’s founder, ‘Etuate Lavulavu, was no longer involved with its operation.

‘Akosita said the Nepituno story had affected her students and the reputation of the school.

She said she believed she and her school were being dragged into the political rivalry between ‘Etuate and Dr Latu.

‘Etuate Lavulavu became MP for Vava’u 16 after he beat Dr Latu in the 2014 general election.

However, he was disqualified by the Supreme Court decision after Dr Latu won a lawsuit against him for bribery during his 2014 election campaign.

The main points

  • The director of the ‘Unuaki ‘o Tonga Royal Institute (UTRI), ‘Akosita Lavulavu, has denied claims by the Nepituno website that she and her husband ‘Etuate Lavulavu defrauded  the government of hundreds of thousands of pa’anga.
  • Nepituno is operated by ‘Etuate’s political rival, Dr Viliami Latu.
  • ‘Akosita Lavulavu told Kaniva News the Nepituno article had been copied and printed by other newspapers in Tonga, but none of them had contacted her or UTRI to obtain their side of the story.
  • She said she was filing a lawsuit against Dr Latu and the local newspapers.

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