THE Legislative Assembly has unanimously approved the establishment of a Select Committee and its terms of reference for reviewing and propose information that is needed to be included in the government’s annual reports, that is submitted to Parliament.
The initiative is seen as an important tool to assist MPs with their scrutiny role and financial accountability of the Executive to the Legislature.
All Members (20) present in the House voted in favour of the motion proposed by Tongatapu 5 Constituency MP, Hon. Dr. ‘Aisake Eke yesterday.
In his proposition for a Select Committee, Dr. Eke also proposed a term of reference for the Committee members to make a proposition on content information required for government’s annual reports. Tongatapu 5 MP said the information needed for the annual reports should be relevant, complete, simple, understandable and verifiable.
Every year following the approval of the national budget, Cabinet Ministers are responsible to provide annual report to Parliament in September the following year. This should provide detail information on how the public funds allocation in the previous year were spent.
Tongatapu 5 MP said Cabinet has a format in place to reflect the corporate plan and how public funds approved from Parliament are used. However, in discussion of some reports, he notes there are important elements missing which makes it hard for them to perform their duties.
Dr. Eke maintained “that providing relevant and comprehensive report helps to strengthen the MPs oversight role and the idea of a Select Committee is for the betterment of Tonga”.
The motion surfaced in Parliament after ‘Eua People’s Representative, Hon. Dr. Taniela Fusimalohi expressed his frustration about the difficulty in their (MPs) scrutiny role due to some government ministry’s failure to provide relevant information in their annual report to reflect its expenditure and activities on how the public monies was used.
Dr. Fusimalohi repeatedly emphasised the need to change the format of government annual reports to include relevant information such as the ministry’s corporate plan, budget estimates, activities on how the public funds was used and its outcome.
A status work report should also be provided as well as way forward measures to improve public service in the future.
The ‘Eua MP stressed that a comprehensive information provided in the annual reports will help MPs effectiveness in their oversight and scrutiny role.
The idea of a Select Committee was prompted in Parliament after the Speaker Lord Fakafanua, highlighted the clause 51 subclause 5 of the Constitution on Cabinet’s functions and powers. It provides the roles of Cabinet Ministers to report back to Parliament advising its activities and plans of his ministry. And if the Legislative Assembly wish to know anything concerning the ministry, it is the Minister’s responsibility to answer all questions put to them and report everything in connection with their respective ministry.
The Lord Speaker highlighted this is an important tool to promote the Executive’s accountability to the Legislature and to the people.
The six Member Select Committee approved includes the Hon. Prime Minister and the Minister for Finance from the Cabinet, the Speaker Lord Fakafanua, Tongatapu No. 2 Noble Representative of Tongatapu, Lord Tu’ivakanō and Ha’apai No.1 Noble Representative Lord Tu’iha’angana as the reserve MP for the Noble’s bench. Members for the People’s Representatives are Hon. Dr. ‘Aisake Eke (Tongatapu 5 MP) and Tongatapu 4 Constituency MP, Hon. Mateni Tapueluelu with ‘Eua 11 MP Hon. Dr. Taniela Fusimālohi as the reserve MP.
The Select Committee will convene a meeting to work on its terms of reference before submitting a report with recommendations to Parliament for approval.