Gov’t stops controversial road construction works in Ha‘apai citing ‘needs to complete’ deal agreements with contractor

    'Oku taupotu 'i lalo heni ha fakamatala faka-Tonga

    The Tu’i’onetoa government has stopped its new road construction contractor in Ha’apai from doing any further works there saying there was an issue with the deal before the company took up the jobs.

    Sione Foaki Fifita (L) and Minister of Finance Tēvita Lavemaau. Photos/Kaniva Tonga

    The Minister of Finance has confirmed this to Kaniva News this morning.

    He did not respond to one of our questions asking him whether it was true the project will be rebid.

    Hon Tēvita Lavemaau said the contractor Sione Foaki Fifita began working on the project late last year but it has now been ordered to stop.

    The Minister said in Tongan: “’Oku kei tuu ngaue i he taimi ni kae oua ke fakakakato ae ngaahi fiemau koia ke fatu aki ae Contract Ngaue pea mo Foaki”.

    In English this means: “The work is currently being on hold until the requirements needed to write up the contract with Foaki are completed.”

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    The road work deal was part of the Prime Minister’s multimillion budget announced to build new roads in Tonga.

    The Prime Minister said this was a priority for the people and surveys conducted throughout Tonga have supported this policy and there was government money for the project.

    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.

    The announcement last year by the Prime Minister confirming that three companies with strong links to the government have been awarded contracts to supply rocks for the roading project met with jeers of disapproval from the public.

    Critics argued the government disregarded local construction companies which have the right equipment and expertise to do the jobs and gave the contracts to their friends.

    Ha’apai constructions

    Fifita came under the spotlight last month after a New Zealand based-Tongan freight company threatened to sue the Tonga government after he failed to pay more than $100,000 freight debts.

    The overdue bill was owed to Tripac International Ltd which is also known as Friendly Islands Freight Ltd after it shipped heavy machinery from New Zealand to Tonga.

    The equipment belongs to Fifita and his Pacific Works and Civil Contractor company.

    Tripac held the equipment at its facility at the Queen Salote wharf when it arrived in Tonga because Mr Fifita wouldn’t pay for the freight.

    It has been claimed the Minister of Finance contacted Tripac and asked the company to release the equipment with a guarantee the government would pay it afterward.

    FAKAMATALA FAKA-TONGA

    Kuo ta’ofi ‘e he pule’anga’ ‘a e langa mo e tanu hala pule’anga na’e lolotonga fakahoko ‘i Ha’apai ‘e he tangata konitulekitoa mei Nu’u Sila ko Sione Foaki Fifita. Ko hono fakahā fakapapau’i ‘eni ‘e he Minisitā Pa’anga’ Tēvita Lavemaau ki he Ongoongo ‘a e Kaniva Tonga’ he pongipongi’ ni. Na’e ‘ikai foki ha tali ‘a Lavemaau ki he fehu’i ‘e taha mei he Kaniva’ ‘o ‘eke ange pe ko e mo’oni ‘e toe fakahoko ha tala ngāue (rebid) ki he polōseki ko ‘eni’. Pehē ‘e Lavemāu’ kuo tupu hono ta’ofi e ngāue ‘a Fifita’ mei he ‘ikai fakakakato ‘a e fiema’u ki he aleapau ngāue ne tonu ke fakahoko ‘e he pule’anga’  mo ia’. Pehē foki ‘e Lavemaau ne ‘osi lele mai pe a e ngāue ia ‘a Fifita’ ‘i he konga ki mui ‘o e ta’u kuo ‘osi’ ka kuo ta’ofi ‘eni.

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