Minister Of Police Has No Authority, Tonga PM Tells Parliament

Comments made regarding state owned forestry enterprise and ongoing accounting controversy involving $4M 

By Pesi Fonua

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, August 21, 2016) – The Minister of Police has no authority, and government is facing “a concrete wall” while they are trying to find out what happened to the financial reports of Tonga Forest Products Ltd. the Prime Minister, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva told parliament on Thursday, 18 August.

The Prime Minister was responding to a question raised by the Ha’apai People Representative No. 13, Veivosa Taka during question time in Legislature on Thursday afternoon.

The Ha’apai PR No. 13 wanted to know about reports of missing funds, receipts and financial reports of the Tonga Forest Ltd., a public enterprise that was recently transferred to a new entity.

The PM tried to elaborate by explaining that there was a missing $4 million, but the old staff of the company had left and company reports had been burned. He said that this was a very serious issue and they had reported it to the Police, and the Police Commander told them that they were investigating the matter.

The Prime Minister stressed, repeatedly, that the problem was because “the Minister of Police has no authority. The Minister of Police has no authority.”

“Has there been a Cabinet Decision on the issue?” asked the Speaker, Lord Tu'ivakano but there was no response from the Prime Minister.

Sad situation

“There is drastically something wrong here!” said Lord Nuku, the ‘Eua Nobles Representative. “The Minister of Police has no authority and nothing has been done. We are in a sad situation.”

“How can we have a Minister of Police without any authority?” asked, Lord Tu’ilakepa, the Vava’u Nobles’ Representative No. 2.

“They [the Police] will work if it is demanded by a Cabinet Decision,” said the Speaker ( a former PM). He also reminded the House that the Parliament passed the Tonga Police Act. “We passed this Act!”

The Minister of Health, Hon. Dr Saia Piukala told the House that the Minister of Justice was tabling a Bill into parliament to amend the Act (The Tonga Police Act).

[There appears to be a conviction by some members of Parliament that the Police Commissioner has more authority over the operation of the Ministry of Police than the Minister of Police. The Police Commissioner is selected by the Privy Council.]

The Minister for Public Enterprises, Hon. Poasi Mataele Tei told the House that the matter was with the Court.

Hon. Poasi Tei also further clarified matters relating to what happened to the Tonga Forest Products Ltd., a public enterprise.

He said that during last year and this year they had pumped in a lot of cash into the company because they were in trouble, they had a $4 million debt with the Tonga Development Bank and the company’s working equipment was very old. He said that they also had considered terminating the company. However, on July 17 government signed a Management Partnership with a Maori Trust from New Zealand.

The Maori Trust had agreed to pay government $9,37,795 pa’anga, in return, they would take over the running of the company for the next 50 years. They also agreed to rename the enterprise 'Aotearoa-Tonga Forest Products Limited.'

Matangi Tonga Magazine
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