Tonga’s Finance Minister Hon ‘Aisake Eke has revealed the Treasury was still working to process paperwork that should have been completed before US$18 million (NZ$20 million) was handed over to Princess Pilolevu’s satellite company, Tongasat.
The money was transferred to Tongasat on May 5, 2012, after Princess Pilolevu wrote to the government of former Prime Minister Lord Sevele, asking for help to revive her satellite company and to pay a US$6 million (NZ$6,950,796.46) tax debt.
The money came from the US$49.9 million (TP$91 million/NZ$57.75 million) grant to Tonga by the Chinese government which was respectively paid in two tranches in 2008 and in 2011.
The Tonga Reserve Bank advised Treasury to deposit the Chinese money in a trust fund for Tongasat.
Eke said he was baffled when he first saw in the Auditor General’s report for 2012/2013 that the grant money had been paid to Tongasat without proper procedures being followed.
When he was appointed as Tonga’s Minister of Finance in January 2014 he undertook to make the Tongasat payout as one of the first things he would look at.
The Minister said he discovered that the Reserve Bank had given Treasury officials an account number and told them to use it to deposit the money, saying the account was a trust fund.
The Auditor General’s office discovered the money had been paid without a voucher, a breach of the treasury's transactional procedure.
Eke said Treasury officials met with the auditors on 20 January 2014 and explained to them they were working to process a voucher and would send it to them when it was finished.
Eke told the House on April 2 this year that Treasury was still working on the voucher in March 2014, even though the Auditor General’s report which raised the matter covered the period until June 2013.
The Minister said the voucher would be noted in next year’s Auditor General’s report.
The trust fund
Democratic Party MP and former Tourism Minister Isileli Pulu told Kaniva News Eke had raised an issue on which he had earlier questioned the Prime Minister, Lord Tu’ivakano in the House.
Pulu said government budgets up to 2013/14 had no record of a trust fund that could be used to transfer money from China to the Princess and her company.
“There is a space in the government’s budget for trust funds and you can easily find there the trust fund from the Asian development Bank, the World Bank and others,” Pulu said.
“It was surprising to hear the Tonga Reserve Bank has advised Treasury to pay the Chinese grant to Tongasat and the Princess using a trust fund.
“That money was recorded in the budget as a grant to help the economic and technical development of Tonga.
“I understand that is why Hon Eke still questioned the deposit.”
Pulu said it did not make sense that the Treasury was working to complete the paperwork for the payment two years after it had been made.
“The money has already been paid and without the proper procedure and those responsible should have been punished,” Pulu said.
“If this payout involved lower level staff only they would have been fired and taken to court after the auditor found the irregularities in the payout process.”
Kaniva News asked the Tonga National Reserve Bank to explain why money from the Chinese grant was transferred to Princess Pilolevu and Tongasat using a trust fund. The bank did not respond to our e-mail.
Opposition leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva has launched a no confidence vote in Parliament and two failed court attempts to pursue the government over the issue.
According to industry sources, Tongasat owns one ancient satellite, Esiafi-1 (originally Comsat 4) which is in an erratic orbit.
Tongasat originally submitted a bid for 16 orbital slots, but was given six, which were then leased to satellite operators.
Plans to launch satellites appear to have come to nothing.
The main points
- Treasury is still processing paperwork that should have been completed before TP$18 million (NZ$11 million) was handed over to Princess Pilolevu’s satellite company, Tongasat, it was revealed recently.
- The money was handed over in 2012 after the princess asked former Prime Minister Lord Sevele to divert the funds from a Chinese grant to revive her satellite company and pay a US$6 (NZ$4 million) million tax debt.
- The Auditor General’s report for 2012/2013 said the money had been paid to Tongasat without a voucher, a breach of Treasury procedure.
- Tonga’s Finance Minister Hon ‘Aisake Eke told the House on April 2 this year that Treasury was still working on the voucher in March 2014 and that it would be noted in next year’s Auditor General’s report.
For more information
News in Tongan
Kuo fakaha ‘e he minisita Pa’anga ‘a Tonga, ‘Onapolo ‘Aisake Eke ‘oku kei ngaue pe ‘a e Fale Pa’anga ke fakama’opo’opo ‘a e ngaahi me’a fakapepa na’e totonu ke ne fakakakato ki mu’a pea toki foaki atu ‘a e pa’anga ‘Amelika e 18 miliona ki he kautaha satelaite ‘a Pilinisesi Pilolevu ko e Tongasat.
Ko e pa’anga ko eni na’e totongi ia ki he Tongasat ‘i Me ‘aho 5, 2012 hili ia ha tohi ‘a Pilinisesi Pilolevu ‘o kole ki he palemia ‘o e pule’anga ki mu’a ‘o Looti Sevele ke ‘omi mu’a ke fakaakeake ‘aki ‘ene kautaha mo totongi ai ‘a e mo’ua tukuhau ‘o e Tongasat ki he Potungaue Tukuhau ‘a Tonga na’e fe’unga mo e pa'anga 'Amelika e $6 miliona.
Ko e pa’anga ia mei he konga hono ua hono totongi mei Siaina ‘o e pa’anga tokoni ‘e $25.45 miliona ‘Amelika ki he pule’anga Tonga. Ko e tokoni na’e pa’anga ‘Amelika ‘e $49.9 miliona fakakatoa pea konga 'e ua hono totongi ki Tonga 'a ia ko e 'uluaki 'omi e $25.45 miliona 'Amelika he 2008 pea fakaosi mai ko 'eni 'a e toe $25.45 'Amelika 'i he 2011.
Na’e hanga leva ‘e he Pangike Pule ‘a Tonga ‘o fale’i ‘a e Fale Pa’anga ke tipositi ‘a e pa’anga ko eni mei Siaina ko ha pa’anga talasiti ki he Tongasat.
Na’e pehe foki ‘e Eke na’e puputu’u ‘ene fakakaukau he’ene ‘uluaki sio ‘i he fakamatala ‘atita ki he 2012/13 na’e ‘ikai muimui i he founga totonu kuo tu’utu’uni ke totongi atu ‘aki ha pa’anga, ‘a e ‘ave pa’anga ko ‘eni ki he Tongasat. ‘I he taimi ko e na’e fakanofo ai ia ko e minisita pa’anga ‘i Sanuali 2014 na’a ne tukupa ko e taha ia e me’a ‘e ‘uluaki sio ki ai ko e fo’i totongi ko ‘eni ki he Tongasat.
Na’e me’a ‘a e minisita ‘o pehe na’a ne ilo ai na’e ‘oange ‘e he Pangike Pule ‘a Tonga ki he kau ofisiale ‘a Fale Pa’anga ha fo’i fika ‘akauni ke nau tipositi ki ai ‘a e pa’anga mo pehe ke ‘ai ko e pa’anga talasiti.
Na’e ma’u foki ‘e he ‘ofisi ia ‘o e ‘Atita Seniale ko e pa’anga na’e totongi atu ia ‘ikai hano vausia, ko hano maumau’i ia ‘o e founga ngaue ‘a e fale pa’anga ki hono totongi atu ‘o ha pa’anga.
Na’e me’a foki ‘a Eke ‘o pehe na’a nau fakataha leva mo e kau ‘atita ‘i he ‘aho 20 Sanuali 2014 ‘o fakamatala kia kinautolu ‘a e ngaue kuo nau fai ke ‘ai ha vausia pea ‘e toki ‘oatu kia kinautolu ‘i ha’ane maau.
Na’e fakaha ‘e Eke ki he Fale Alea ‘i he ‘aho 2 ‘Epeleli ‘o e ta’u ni ‘oku kei ngaue pe ‘a e Fale Pa’anga ki he Vausia ko eni ‘i he’ene a’u mai ki Ma’asi 2014, neongo ko e lipooti ‘a e ‘atita ia ‘a ia na’e ‘ohake ai ‘a e me’a ni ‘oku ngata ia ‘i Sune 2013. Na’e pehe ‘e he minisita ‘e toki fakahu mai ‘a e vausia leva ia ‘i he fakamatala ‘a e ‘Atita Seniale ki he ta’u kaha’u, 2015.
Ko e pa’anga talasiti:
Na’e pehe ‘e he Fakafofonga Fale Alea ‘a e Paati Temokalati pea ko e minisita ki mu’a foki ia ‘a e Takimamata, 'Isileli Pulu ki he Ongoongo ‘a e Kaniva kuo toe ‘ohake ‘e Eke ‘a e ‘isiu na’a ne fakafehu’i pe ai ‘a e Palemia, Looti Tu’ivakano ‘i Fale Alea.
Pehe ‘e Pulu na’e ‘ikai ha lekooti ia ‘i he patiseti ‘a e pule’anga ‘i he’ene lelei mai ‘o a’u ki he 2013/14 ‘e ‘asi ai ha fakamatala ‘o ha pa’anga talasiti ke ngaue’aki hano ‘ave pa’anga mei Siaina ki he Pilinisesi mo ‘ene kautaha.
Na’e pehe e Pulu ‘oku ‘i ai pe fo’i konga ‘i he patiseti ‘a e pule’anga ‘oku fokotu’u mahino ai ‘a e ngaahi pa’anga talasiti pea ‘oku faingofua pe ke ma’u ai e lekooti o e ngaahi pa’anga talasiti mei he Pangike ADB, ko e Pangike ‘a Mamani mo e ngaahi feitu’u kehe.
Ne toe pehe foki ‘e Pulu na’e faka’ohovale ‘a e fanongo kuo fale’i ‘e he Pangike Pule ‘a Tonga ke totongi ‘a e pa’anga tokoni mei Siaina ki he Tongasat mo e Pilinisesi ‘o ‘ai ko e pa’anga talasiti.
Ko e pa’anga ko ia na’e lekooti ia ‘i he patiseti ko e pa’anga tokoni ‘a Siaina ki hono langa fakalakalaka fakatekinikale mo faka’ekonomika ‘o Tonga.
Na’e toe pehe ‘e Pulu ‘oku mahino pe kiate ia ko e me’a ia ‘oku kei fehu’i ai ‘e Eke pe na’e tipositi fakafefe ‘a e pa’anga.
‘I he lau ‘a Pulu foki na’a ne pehe ‘oku ‘ikai mahu’inga malie ‘a e kei feinga ‘a e Fale Pa’anga ke fakakakato ‘a e me’a fakaepa ki ha totongi ko e ‘osi e ta’u ‘e ua hono fai ‘ona.
Ko e pa’anga kuo ‘osi totongi pea ‘ikai fou ‘i he founga totonu pea na’e tonu ke tautea’i ‘a kinautolu ne fai ia, ko e lau ia ‘a Pulu.
“Kapau na ko e totongi atu ko ‘eni ko e fakahoko ‘e he kau ngaue pe ko e ‘i he levolo ma’olalo ‘ata’ata kuo loa hono faea kinautolu pea ‘ave ki he fakamaau’anga ‘o hopo’i hili hono ‘ilo ‘e he ‘atita na’e ‘i ai ‘a e tonounou i hono fakahoko ‘o e totongi.
Na’e eke ‘e he Kaniva ki he Pangike Pule ke fakamatala’i pe ko e ha na’e ‘ave ai ‘a e pa’anga tokoni ki Tonga mei Siaina kia Pilinisesi Pilolevu mo e Tongasat ‘o ‘ai ko e pa’anga talasiti. Na’e ‘ikai tali ‘e he pangike ‘emau ‘imeili.
Na’e fokotu’u atu ‘e he Taki ‘o e Fa’ahi Fakaanga, ‘Akilisi Pohiva ‘i ha fili-ikai-falala’anga ‘o e palemia ‘i Fale Alea pehe ki ha feinga hopo ‘e ua ‘i he fakamaau’anga ke ‘ekea e pule’anga ‘i he totongi pa’anga ni.
Fakatatau ki he ngaahi ma’u’anga tala ‘i he ngaahi ngaue fakasatelaite oku pehe ‘oku ma’u ‘e he Tongasat a e fo’i satelaite motu’a ko e ‘Esiafi 1 (na’e ‘uluaki ui ko e Comsat 4) ko ha fo’i tu’u’anga ‘aia ‘oku pehe ‘oku ‘i ha fo’i halanga satelaite ‘oku mafihunga kehe hono ‘alunga.
Na’e mu’aki fakahu ‘e he Tongasat ‘e ne kole ki ha fo’i tu’u’anga satelaite ‘e 16 ka na’e tali ‘a e ono pe ‘a ia na’e toe lisi atu ia ki ha kau fakalele satelaite. ‘Oku ha mahino mei he ngaahi fakamatala ko e ngaahi feinga ‘a e Tongast ke fakalele ‘a e ngaahi satelaite ‘oku iku pe ko e koto kulanoa.
FAKAMAHINO E NGAAHI FIKA
Ko e ngaahi fika ‘i ‘olunga ‘oku fika’i ia ‘e he Kaniva ‘aki ‘a e tu’unga totongi pe rate ‘o e ‘aho ni i hono liliu ki he pa’anga Tonga mo Nu’u Sila.