TONGA’s first Commissioner of the Tonga Anti-Corruption James Christopher LaHatte yesterday made a presentation on the role of the Tonga Anti-Corruption Commission during an Anti-Corruption workshop for the MPs at Ancient Tonga, Nuku’alofa.  

In his presentation, the former Ombudsman reaffirmed the Anti-Corruption Commission’s commitment to address the integrity issues shared by Tonga’s Ombudsman ‘Alisi Taumoepeau that “integrity means following the Law and independence is key to any investigation because the Law says so.”  

Commissioner Christopher LeHatte told the MPs the Anti-Corruption Act was passed in 2007. It was not until 2023 Parliament passed a legislation for the appointment of an Anti-Corruption Commissioner.  

He told the MPs that among top priorities for the Commission to do is setting up the office and most importantly is to provide outreach and public awareness. That is to educate the people on what services their office provides.  

The Anti-Corruption Commission will set up a whistleblower system where people can make anonymous complaint for the Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate. The Commissioner also highlighted their office will provide high security for whistleblower protection and for themselves too. 

Commissioner LeHatte also mentioned the work of the Commission includes investigation, own motion investigation (the Commissioner can investigate an issue of interest even the office did not receive a complaint specifically about that issue), and the authority to make prosecution.  

He also elaborates on tools provided for the Commissioner to execute his duty which includes notice to produce information, power to require attendance and obtain documents, power of entry, injunction, compulsory examinations, hold public enquiry, power to summons/arrest witness, search warrants, seizure of property including bank accounts.  

The Commission will recruit more staff including a Director of Investigation, Director of Prosecutions, Director Training/Outreach and Director of Corporate Services in the future. The Anti Corruption Commissioner, who was also a former Ombudsman, said he is open for any constructive criticism and welcome any feedback that can improve the performance of the Commission.  

“This is not me doing the job. This is a relationship between people who have access to all the information on goal to improve integrity. I will be open to talk to anyone about how I do my job and welcome any important things that we should be doing, and things we should be doing better. And things we should look at... I welcome any contact or come and visit my office to talk about things that maybe troubling you,” said the Anti-Corruption Commissioner. 

Corruption in Schedule 2 of the legislation is defined as official misconduct including breach of trust, fraud in office, bribery, blackmail, wilful damage of public property, embezzlement, tax evasion, illegal drug dealings, gambling, forgery, bankruptcy and company violations, treason or other offences against the Sovereign are among other issues. 

Christopher LaHatte has been a practising ombudsman, mediator, and lawyer in New Zealand and overseas for over 40 years. 

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