Tonga’s Auditor-General Sēfita Tangi and ex-Auditor General Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa have given a clearer picture of the special report in response to Public Service Association head Mele ‘Amanaki‘s petition to Parliament.
The 12-page report by Tangi has only been made available in Tongan.
Tongan has a smaller vocabulary than English and so there have been problems with technical terms.
This has been apparent in how the Auditor’s special report was interpreted by many after it was released to the public.
The Auditor General used the words “’Ikai faipau ki he lao ngāue fakapule’anga 2002” or “did not exactly follow the Public Service Act 2002.”
This has been rephrased by some on social media as “maumau’i ‘a e lao” or breached of the law.
Kaniva news contacted the Auditor General to ask for his definition in English so our readers can have a clear understanding of the response.
The Auditor did not recommend any penalties or holding the Ministers or those who did not follow the law legally responsible.
Instead, the report only recommended that the process of employing some employees for the government, which was raised in the petition, be returned to the PSC for the process to be completed.
The petition alleged that seven cabinet Ministers, including the Prime Minister, had breached the constitution or the law and some had abused public funds.
The report did not report any breach or misappropriation of public fund.
Tangi told Kaniva news the English translation of “faipau” as used in his report was “compliance/comply” and “‘ikai faipau” for not comply.
In his report he also used the Tongan phrase “Makatu’unga ‘i he ngaahi tu’unga fakalao” or “were based on legal matters.” He said he was referring to some of the cases that should have been dealt with by laws and they did not pretty much relate to public funds.
He did not respond after we asked him why he did not use the phrase “maumau’i ‘o e lao” “breach of the law” if the law was broken and why he did not use normal Tongan word such as “ta’efakalao” (illegal or unlawful) in his report.
Hon. Tu’i’onetoa responded to the same questions by saying that what Tangi was talking about were “procedural mistakes or errors or failing to observe or failing to follow procedural matters.”
Hon. Tu’i’onetoa said the report talked about “civil law, not criminal law.”
They were not mistakes that had caused government great loss, he said.
These mistakes can be fixed by completing paper works according to the required process and it would be fine, he said.
The auditor found that the process and employment of workers at the Popua Park did not comply with the law. However, he found that this was done to save public funds.
Hon. Tu’ionetoa said this included the Prime Minister hiring workers who were paid at low rates and agreeing with Ministry of Infrastructure to use its machinery and only pay for their petrol.
The special report said that for various reasons, three of these workers, including former MP ‘Etuate Lavulavu, ‘Automalo Tupou and Sione Kava, were not paid for the work they did
As Kaniva news reported recently, an independent report by PECG said there was evident saving was made in the Popua project.
Breach and Illegality
Tu’i’onetoa said the phrase breach of the law (maumau’i e lao) and illegality (ta’efakalao) were different in meaning from procedural mistakes or errors and this was why the Auditor’s report did not use them.
He said breach in civil law was an act of breaking or failing to observe a law, agreements or code of conducts.
He said such breaches usually arose in civil law and involved contract law, for which compensation was by way of damages only if there was loss suffered.
He said the word illegality meant that the case had a criminal element in it or there was an intention to commit an offense. Penalties could include damages and imprisonment.
He said criminal activity involved “ill intention,” such as in theft.
An act contrary to or forbidden by law, especially in criminal law. This would be the same whether somebody was selling drugs or stealing to satisfy their hunger, he said.
Procedural mistakes or omissions were quite different, Hon. Tu’i’onetoa said.
“Let’s say the government procedure required a process go through five steps,” he said.
“I could tell that two steps in the process could be inefficient to complete the work so I choose to complete only three of the five steps and ignore the two.
“After doing that the whole process ended up successfully and saved costs, despite the fact it did not follow the whole steps required by the law.
“My question is: Are we going to penalise that person because he did not exactly follow the law when what he did was to make the process effective and efficient and he did it better than a person who followed the letter of the law?
“We should understand what we normally have from keeping to the law.
“Keeping the law does not mean its purpose is always achieved, effective or efficient or prevent wastage.
“We should have laws to uphold order, but at the same time the law is not perfect because it is man made.”
The main points
- Tonga’s Auditor-General Sefita Tangi and ex-Auditor General Pohhiva Tu’i’onetoa have given a clearer picture of the special report in response to Public Service Association head Mele ‘Amanaki‘s petition to Parliament.
- The report by Hon. Tangi has only been made available in Tongan.
- Tongan has a smaller vocabulary than English and so there have been problems with technical terms.
For more information