Noble applauds transparency as House debates auditors’ report

Former Speaker of the Tongan Parliament, Lord Tu’ilakepa, has praised the government for its transparency after it debated a report that said the former Auditor General had used practises that were open to abuse.

This was the first time Parliament had debated the Auditor General’s report.

The Auditor General gave details answers to questions from the Members of the House.

Member for Vava’u 15, Hon. Samiu Vaipulu, asked about a claim in the report that former Auditor General, Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa used to deposit overtime payments of his staff into a private account.

The report said the use of a personal account by Hon. Tu’i’onetoa opened the door for cheating.

Hon. Tu’i’onetoa, who is now Tonga’s Police Minister, Tourism and Labour and Commerce,   said that in 1986 the auditing of non-government boards was up to four or five years late.

The backlog was huge and civil servants were reluctant to work extra hours because the overtime rates were so low.

He said the then Prime Minister, the late Prince  Fatafehi Tu’ipelehake, ordered that all boards’ accounts must be audited and submitted before fixed dates.

Hon. Tu’i’onetoa said he approached the Prince and suggested that he talk to non-government boards and ask them to set reasonable rates that would encourage civil servants to do overtime.

He said the Prince accepted his idea and the system had been used from 1986 until the present day.

Tu’i’onetoa said the money was then deposited into a personal account under his name before he paid it out to his staff.

He said none of his staff had ever complained or raised any issues with him about their overtime payments.

The  main points

  • Former Speaker of the Tongan Parliament, Lord Tu’ilakepa, has praised the government for its transparency after it debated a report that said the former Auditor General had used practises that were open to abuse.
  • The report said former Auditor General Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa’s use of a private account to make overtime payments to his staff opened the door for cheating.
  • Tu’i’onetoa, who is now Tonga’s Police Minister, Tourism and Labour and Commerce, said the practice was part of an effort to overcome a huge backlog in audits of non-government boards.
  • It had been used since 1986 and none of his staff had ever complained about the practice.

For more information

In May 2014 Kaniva News published a letter in Tongan in which Hon. Tu’i’onetoa attached the cabinet decision that authorise him to exercise the practice.

The former Auditor General’s letter in Tongan can be found here – Fakamahino ‘Atita Seniale Vahe ‘Ovataimi ne fakahu he ‘akauni taautaha

Here is the copy of the cabinet decision made on September 24, 1986.

C.D. No.1373           24 September 1986

“Recommendation approved:

The Auditor General, during the course of audit on non-Government bodies, be allowed to agree with them on special overtime rates to be paid by non-government bodies to audit staff that are required to work over and above the normal official working hours.”

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