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Avoiding conflict of interest in Pacific Games salaries

Nuku'alofa, Tonga


I am writing with respect to the editorial comment on the above subject matter (Tonga Pacific Games Organising Committee to Set Own Salaries) in which it was indicated that ‘Aisake Eke withdrew his motion, during the deliberation on the Bill for Pacific Games, requiring prior consultations with the Remuneration Authority on all matters pertaining to salaries and allowances setting in this Bill.

The fact is that I moved to insert into the Bill the requirement to consult the Remuneration Authority on all issues relating to salaries and allowances before they are finalized by the Organizing Committee and the Audit and Governance Authority. I never withdrew this motion. As a result, the Legislative Assembly actually passed that motion and the relevant sections of the Bill pertaining to remuneration were amended, accordingly.

The main reason behind this motion is to avoid the apparent conflict of interest, which is bound to occur as a result of some members involved in both the organizing committee and the authority which have the power to set their own entitlements. Also, the Remuneration Authority has been set up to deal with the remuneration related issues and that the Government should make use of that body for that purpose rather than continuing with the practice of considering salaries on an ad-hoc basis, a breeding ground for potential corruption.

There were also other amendments to, and deletions of other sections of this Bill that were approved. The deleted sections include the one relating to making regulation by the organizing committee to exempt itself from paying duty and taxes. This section was struck out as it actually usurps the authority of the Ministry of Revenue Services in its legislation relating to tax and duty exemption. Also, the proposal in the Bill to give the Minister of Finance the authority to endorse any transaction that is incompatible with the Public Finance and Management Act (PFMA) was also taken out. This is a violation of the existing PFMA.

Given the quality of the bill, I was so surprised how this bill came through the government vetting process.

I hope this sets the record straight.


‘Aisake Eke

Member of Parliament

Tongatapu 5

Editor’s note

Thanks for clarifying what went on in parliament on the evening of 11 March 2013. I note there was a heated debate over Clauses 8, 9, 14 and 15, of the Bill for the Pacific Games and the word “corruption” was mentioned a number of times before these clauses were deferred for further debate, at the end of the debate on the rest of the bill. But then there was no further debate on these clauses after the Minister of Justice simply said that he would comply with the wishes of the PRs. The amendments were not read out, there was no voting, though the Chairman said that he could hear a mumble of support from the floor; he then proceeded to call for votes on the bill and all its amendments. It was carried 18-0. It was still not clear what they had actually voted for.