Unpaid freight saga continues with road contractor saying gov’t agreed to pay his expenses

Auckland-based Tongan businessman Sione Foaki Fifita claimed this week the government had agreed to pay his freight expenses for the shipment of heavy machinery from New Zealand.

Prime Minister Tu’i’onetoa (far left) and Sione Foaki Fifita (far right) after the Prime Minister’s first meeting in New Zealand with the Tongan community in 2019. Photo/Kalino Lātū (Kaniva Tonga News)

Speaking to FM 87.5 Broadcom, he said the money was supposed to come from the money the government would pay him for the contract he had been awarded to build and repair roads and the foreshore on Ha’apai. 

Fifita implied that this was the reason he did not pay the shipping company bill himself. 


Fifita was responding to questions from the radio about a complaint from the New Zealand-based Tongan company, Tripac International Ltd, which is also known as the Friendly Islands Freight, after he and the government failed to pay the shipping fee of more than TP$100,000. 

The complaint was previously reported by Kaniva News after we talked to Friendly Islands Freight Ltd Director Angina Fīnau, who confirmed the government still owed him the money.

In our story last month we reported that Fīnau was considering suing the Tu’i’onetoa government over the fees. 

It is understood the equipment was held at Tripac’s facility at the Queen Sālote wharf when the freight charges were not paid. The equipment was later released after a request from the government, it has been claimed. 

The Minister of Finance and Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa were contacted for a comment for our December story, but did not respond.

The controversy surrounding the government’s deal with Fifita included complaints that the government had awarded a contract to a person with close ties to Hon. Tu’i’onetoa.

Critics have claimed that Fifita and Hon. Tu’i’onetoa come from the same village, Talafo’ou , and have strong family connections. 

Critics said local companies had their own equipment in Tonga to do the work. 

They said the local companies had been investing in Tonga for years and could not believe the government could award it to a New Zealand-based company.  

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