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Slick multi-million purchase from PM’s son?

Nuku'alofa, Tonga


I’ve viewed, and reviewed in disbelief PM Pōhiva’s recent TV claims, in which his son Siaosi Pōhiva and his consultancy partner, Paula “Piveni” Piukala, had conveniently discovered flaws in the Education Department’s examination computer programs. They proposed, therefore, to replace the existing computer program with their own computer products.

And the new multi-million-dollar software is now being cleared through Cabinet, which is to be purchased from the PM’s son and his partner. In my experience with computer programs of this magnitude in Corporate America: (a) an extensive independent study must be conducted to test such a product; (b) it is a multi-million-dollar purchase.

The unsubstantiated claims made by the PM and his son’s company, were discredited by former Education Department IT director, Dr. Vesisio Pongi. Dr. Pongi, installed the current computer system when he served as Director of the South Pacific Board of Assessment (SPBA). Upon the request of the Director of Education, he visited the Kingdom recently, and was interviewed by radio/TV personality Viola Ulakai.

 Dr. Pongi dismissed the PM’s claims as baseless, and it is not a new revelation. He confirms that the current assessment system is the best computer program still being used throughout the education systems in Pacific Islands. There have been no major flaws with the program since 1989.

 Lack of Independent Studies

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s son and Mr. Piukala had offered no independent study to prove their claims of a major flaw in the Education Dept. Rather, in my professional judgment, they are relying on their slick salesmanship skills to sell their product through their family connections with the PM.

Mr. Piukala has made headlines in the local media recently calling Tonga’s education a “failure.” However, Mr. Piukala has not provided an independent study to backup his claims. My research experience in Information Technology, and in global business transactions, a comprehensive scientific study is required to verify the validity of a particular product.   

Mr. Piukala provided self-produced statistics to “Ko e Kele‘a” and “Taimi ‘o Tonga” in their most recent issues with self-evident explanations. Their translation of such technical issues had no relevancy whatsoever to the dependability of the PM son’s new software, nor do they accurately prove there are flaws in the existing assessment software.

Lack of Proven Credentials

Mr. Piukala further claims there were exam results, which scored over 100 points. He claims this is one of the flaws in the system, and there are no examinations in the world that scores over 100 points. However, in the American system, both the American College Test (ACT) and the Scholastic Assessment/Aptitude Tests (SAT) college entrance exams, they are scored up to 800 points.

Similarly, Dr. Pongi confirms that the SPBA system uses the raw data of each student’s exam to assess his/her standings in the aggregate ratings compared to fellow students in the standardization system: Example, out of an 800 possible score, a 500-point raw-mark is assessed to be placed above 47% “percentile” of the class.

It seems to me that the Pōhiva-Piukala consultancy is misusing the standardization technical language to confuse everyone. Mr. Pōhiva is an employee at the SPBA, but Mr. Piukala is not. Mr. Piukala confirmed in Viola Ulakai’s TV program, that Siaosi Pōhiva should be credited for designing their products.    

Mr. Piukala provides no educational credentials for himself and Mr. Pōhiva. Mr. Piukala was once employed at the Shoreline Company, and he is on record for removing company files for publication in “Ko e Kele‘a” newspaper. The owner of “Ko e Kele‘a” was Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva.

Sione Ake-mei-hakau Mokofisi
Director: English-Journalism & Languages
Tonga International Academy


Ko e me'a lelei ke tau 'ilo ki he ngaahi fakamatala pehe ni, pea tau ako mei ai. Ka 'oku ou tui au na'e 'osi mea'i pe ia 'ehe hou'eiki kapineti 'a e me'ani. 'Oku ou tui, ko e tu'utu'uni ko'eni 'a e kapineti, 'aki 'enau ngaahi 'uhinga, 'e lava ai ke fakalaka 'a e fonua ki mu'a, ke 'oange 'a e ngaue ni ke fai 'ehe ongo tangata ni. Ko hono 'uhinga ia na'e fili ai kinautolu 'ehe kakai ke nau fakamafai'i ha ngaue peheni. Tukukehe kapau 'oku fepaki mo e lao....SAIA.

Money could be better spent. Technical Colleges are begging for money to teach young people skills that supply the demand for services such as auto electrical, plumbing, landscaping etc... in the Kingdom. Honesty, integrity and righteousness are some of the ingredients of good governance. Malo Sione Tu'itavake Fonua