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A changeover from a Commissioner for Public relations to an Ombudsman was a “coming of age” for Tonga, the kingdom's first Ombudsman ‘Aisea Taumoepeau SC, said at a function to mark the establishment of his office in Nuku’alofa.
An Ombudsman can help ensure that “making sure all Tongans is accorded fairness”, he told invited guests at the Tanoa International Dateline Hotel.
‘Aisea became Tonga’s first Ombudsman on 2 December 2016 after King Tupou VI in Privy Council consented to the amendment of the Commissioner for Public Relations Act 2016 on 24 November.
The amendment changed the title of the Act from Commissioner for Public Relations Act 2001 to Ombudsman Act 2016. It repeals Sections relating to the appointment of the Commissioner, and replaces them with a new procedure for appointment of an Ombudsman, by the Speaker with the consent of the Legislative Assembly.
‘Aisea, in his welcoming speech said that prior to the Public Relations Act 2001 the only legal procedure available for the public to launch a complaint to government was spelled out in Clause 8 of the 1875 Constitution - Freedom of Petition.
Under the Ombudsman Act 2016 an Ombudsman may make investigations into government administration, either on a complaint made to him by any person or on his own motion.
“The Ombudsman is not about politics, it is not about power, it is about efficient service and good governance; making sure all Tongans are accorded fairness..that the Rule of Law is maintained and for Tongans to live in harmony,” said ‘Aisea.
The Ombudsman is paid a salary and allowances from public money, under a contract of employment between the Ombudsman and the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly as recommended by the Remuneration Authority.
‘Aisea also pointed out that the staff of the Ombudsman Office are not within the Public Service Commission, they are under the Ombudsman. They are watchdogs of public authorities and government offices, under efficient and fair governance for the people of Tonga.
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