The Speaker of the Tongan Legislative Assembly, Lord Tuʻivakanō, has told the House that Parliament’s annual visits to its constituencies were a waste of public funds.
Lord Tuʻivakanō also moved to postpone the next Parliamentary visit until 2017.
Speaking to the House last Monday (August 17) he said that every year Members visited their constituencies and returned with the same list needs from their constituents because no serious action was ever taken from year to year.
The Speaker revealed that the Minister of Finance had increased the funding each member can take with to their constituency from TP$100,000 to TP$150,000 (NZ$70,000-105,000), starting with this year’s Parliamentary visit.
Lord Tuʻivakanō said there should be a well-planned project for the next Parliamentary visit to each constituency, which would be funded by the visiting fund.
The Speaker believed the project would make sure the visiting funds were used wisely and effectively for the benefit of the constituents.
The Speaker’s motion to postpone the visits was seconded by Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pōhiva, who said they should be made biannually.
Hon. Pōhiva reiterated the Speaker’s claims that nothing new was being done for the benefit of the constituents with the money set aside for the visits.
In his statement supporting the Speaker, the Prime Minister said he believed people had started to notice that MPs reported on the same things after every visit, but that nothing was ever done about it.
He said MPs should use Parliament’s holidays to visit and talk to their constituents about their needs and report to the House when it reconvened.
Hon. Pōhiva then seconded Lord Tuʻivakano’s motion to conduct the visits every second year.
However, Lord Nuku told the House he believed the visit should still be done annually. He said the visit was part of Parliament’s accountability to the people.
Lord Nuku said he believed the visit enabled the people of the constituencies to talk to their MPs about what they most needed.
He also mentioned clause 62 of the Constitution to support his statements.
MP Sāmiu Vaipulu told the Speaker he agreed with what he had raised in regard to the visit, but he moved to leave the proposed changes until next year for further discussion.
The Speaker agreed with Vaipulu to leave the motion for next year.
Once every year Members of Parliament visit their constituency and discuss what the people need. Recently the government allocated funding for MPs to take to the constituents on the visits.
They give the money to the constituents to use it for what they think will benefit their community like road maintenance and water supply.
One of the reasons the visits are made is because MPs do not have constituency offices in their electorates where people can visit them, as happens in other Parliamentary democracies like New Zealand and Australia.
The main points
- The Speaker of the Tongan Legislative Assembly, Lord Tuʻivakanō, has told the House that Parliament’s annual visits to various constituencies were a waste of public funds.
- He said that every year Members visited their constituencies and returned with the same list of needs from their constituents because no serious action was ever taken on what they needed from year to year.
- Lord Tuʻivakanō said there should be a well-planned project for the next Parliamentary visit to each constituency, which would be funded by the visiting fund.
- The Speaker was supported by the Prime Minister, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pōhiva.