PM Causes Uproar In Tonga Parliament For Hiring Son

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Pohiva accused of nepotism over personal assistant appointment

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Jan. 22, 2015) – The revelation that Tonga’s new Prime Minister, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva has appointed his own son as his personal assistant in the Prime Minister’s Office, caused an up-roar in parliament yesterday, 21 January.

Lord Vaea, the Tongatapu No. 1 Nobles’ Representatives expressed what he thought was an unusual behavior of the new Prime Minister who during the past 27 years has been upfront with his opposition to nepotism within the Tongan government.

The Prime Minister in his speeches since he was elected in December, had repeatedly warned his Cabinet Ministers to be on alert against nepotism.

The Minister of Finance, Hon. ‘Aisake Eke tried to throw some light on the issue by telling the House that ‘Akilisi’s son had signed a working contract with government as a Personal Assistant of the Prime Minister and his salary would be paid by the Prime Minister from his own salary. He stressed that his responsibilities and job had been clearly spelled out in the working contract.

Lord Tu’i’afitu reminded the House that "Duty is more dangerous than money".

However, a spokesperson from the Public Service Commission (PSC) said that Cabinet ministers could select their own personal assistants and drivers. Once approved by the PSC they could become members of the civil service and their salaries could be paid from the budget allocations of those ministries. She said that a personal Assistant and a driver of a minister would remain in service until the minister leaves his post.

The Personal Assistant of the Prime Minister, who has been approved by the PSC, is on salary Level 9, ranging from $15,214 to $27,607 annually. It would be a big sacrifice by the Prime Minister if he had to pay the salary of his Personal Assistant from his own pocket.

Lord Tu’ilakepa pointed out that the conflict issue was that the Prime Minister was hiring his own son.

Health

The Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva then reminded the House that his health "is not good and only my son could help me. That is how I looked at it, and only my son could do what I said."

The Speaker, Lord Tu’ivakano, called on the members to "have a clean heart". He closed parliament until March.

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