After a newly purchased Tongan ferry was lost at sea, swift government action was promised, including a full investigation into how the ship was purchased. That investigation is complete, but the public has been left out of the process. The sinking claimed 74 lives.
More than a month after submitting its findings to Parliament, Tonga’s Royal Commission of Inquiry has still not officially released its report to the public. But according to leading local paper Matangi Tonga, “unofficial copies of the Final Report are circulating freely in the community.” This is not surprising in a small and close-knit society like Tonga.
Last month, Matangi Tonga obtained an unofficial copy of the Inquiry Commission’s still closed findings. This Commission was tasked with investigating the decision-making process that lead to the procurement of the Princess Ashika ferry which sunk last August, killing over 70 Tongans. According to Matangi’s analysis, the report places much of the blame for the procurement of the Princess Ashika ferry on the Cabinet. In the report, Cabinet is sighted as pushing the deal through hastily, without sufficient information, and effectively blocking the Procurement Committee and the Anti-Corruption Commission from completing their essential oversight roles.
You can read through Matangi Tonga’s full review of the report, which profiles how the findings portray the roles of each related ministry in lead up to last year’s devastating ferry accident.
What is still yet to be seen (besides the official release of the report!), is whether the Commission’s findings are translated into revisions to legal framework for oversight institutions in Tonga to increase their presence in future decision-making processes.
(Global Integrity recently spoke to the need to improve legal reporting requirements in Tonga’s procurement process as essential to preventing a similar incidents from occurring in the future. You can read our op-ed and reactions here.)
— Norah Mallaney
— Image: The Princess Ashika in happier days.