The Tongan government has ordered the Ha’apai Cyclone Ian project to close its office after TP$1.3 million pa’anga could not be accounted for.

Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva told Parliament sums of TP$900,000 and TP$400,000 funded by the government to pay to a contractor were among the monies unaccounted for.

Hon. Pohiva, who returned to Tongatapu yesterday, said he wanted the Cyclone Ian Project office in Ha’apai to be investigated, the House was told this morning.

The World Bank, which funds the project, is involved in the investigation.

It is understood the office was administering millions of pa’anga funded by oversea donors and the Tongan government for the reconstruction of Ha’apai after it was destroyed by Cyclone Ian in 2014.

The Prime Minister said he was concerned at the progress of the reconstruction work, which was too slow.

The House was told 78 residential houses which were affected during the cyclone were not included in the reconstruction.

There were also a great concern at the salaries of 18 construction managers and consultants who were alleged to be paid a TP$1200 a day.

The Prime Minister said he became aware of the problem when he returned from Vava’u the previous week through Ha’apai.

It is understood Hon. Pohiva met with members of the public in Pangai on Monday.

Since the reconstruction project started there have been inconsistencies and several interruptions of the reconstruction process. At one stage the then government stopped work and demanded all those involved in the process to sign an agreement.

This occurred after it was revealed some tenants of houses which were damaged during the disaster did not own the land on which the houses were built.

Cyclone Ian

The Category Five cyclone was the most powerful storm ever recorded in Tonga and had a devastating impact on the Ha’apai island group.

An estimated 5500 people, about 70% of the Ha’apai population, were affected. Most of the 1100 existing houses and many public facilities were damaged or destroyed. A total of 14 people were injured and one person died.

The World Bank approved US$12 million to support the Cyclone Ian Reconstruction and Climate Resilience Project.

Total project cost was estimated at US$15.89 million.

The international body estimated the total physical damages and economic losses from the disaster at US$50 million, equal to 11 percent of the country’s GDP.

The closing date for the project is July 30 next year.

The main points

  • The Tongan government has ordered the Ha’apai Cyclone Ian project to close its office after TP$1.4 million pa’anga could not be accounted for.
  • Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva told Parliament sums of TP$900,000 and TP$400,000 funded by the government to pay to a contractor were among the monies unaccounted for.
  • Pohiva said he wanted the Tonga Cyclone Ian Reconstruction and Climate Resilience Project office in Ha’apai to be investigated, the House was told this morning.
  • The World Bank, which funds the project, is involved in the investigation.

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