Appointment Of Tonga's First Ombudsman Finalized

King Tupou VI consents to changes in Act regarding appointment of Ombudsman by Speaker of Legislative Assembly

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Dec. 14, 2016) – ‘Aisea Taumoepeau became Tonga’s first Ombudsman on 2 December after HM King Tupou VI in Privy Council consented to the Commissioner for Public Relations (Amendment) Act 2016 on 24 November.

The amendment changed the title of the Act from “Commissioner for Public Relations Act 2001” to “Ombudsman Act 2016”.  It repeals Sections relating to the appointment of the Commissioner, and replaces them with a new procedure for appointment of an Ombudsman by the Speaker with the consent of the Legislative Assembly. It requires a person of integrity with extensive experience in law and governance, but the office holder must resign on reaching 72 years of age. Resignations are now to be addressed to the “Speaker” and not to “His Majesty in Council”.

The Ombudsman may make investigations into government administration, either on a complaint made to the Commissioner by any person or on his own motion. He is paid a salary and allowances from public money under a contract of employment between the Ombudsman and the Speaker as recommended by the Remuneration Authority.

The Bill to Amend the Commissioner for Public Relations Act 2001 was passed with votes of 20-0.

It was one of a number of important Bills and controversial Petitions that the Tonga Parliament passed on 27 October.

The Minister of Justice, Hon. Vuna Fa’otusia on 24 October tabled the bill into parliament along with a Bill to amend the Anti-corruption Commissioner Act 2007.

The two Bills are an attempt by Government to introduce an Anti-corruption Commissioner. The post for an Anti-corruption Commissioner has been left vacant since the Act was passed in 2007.

The Bill to amend the Anti-corruption Commissioner Act 2007 was passed with votes of 18-0.

Awaiting consent

The amendment is to shift the selection and the appointment of an Anti-corruption Commissioner from His Majesty in Privy Council to the Legislative Assembly and the Speaker of the House whereby “A Commissioner shall be recruited by the Speaker with the consent of the Legislative Assembly.”

An opposing view to this Bill, presented by Lord Fusitu’a during the debate in the House pointed out that His Majesty in Privy Council is considered to be the most neutral person, “the King cannot be charged for any crime.”

To date, His Majesty in Privy Council has not consented to the Bill to amend the Anti-corruption Commissioner Act 2007.

Once the King in Privy Council gives his consent to the Bill, Hon. Vuna Fa’otusia told the House in October that the Ombudsman could also become the Anti-corruption Commissioner, until an Anti-corrupton Commissioner is appointed.

Matangi Tonga Magazine
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