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In Tonga, a Commissioner for Public Relations was established under the Commissioner for Public Relations Act 2001, to carry out duties similar to those of a traditional Ombudsman. On 2 December 2016, the title “Commissioner for Public Relations” was changed to “Ombudsman” pursuant to the Commissioner for Public Relations (Amendment) Act 2016.

The Ombudsman is now accountable to the Legislative Assembly (through the Speaker), rather than the government of the day, and can only be dismissed for cause, by the Legislative Assembly.

The functions of the Ombudsman is to investigate complaints about administrative actions and decisions made by any department, public enterprise or other public body; or made by any officer (including the Minister or Governor), employee or member of such body

Complaints can be made to the Ombudsman by any member of the public. The Ombudsman can make an investigation either on a complaint made to him or on his own motion. The Ombudsman may (if he consents thereto) also investigate any matter referred to him by the Prime Minister. The Ombudsman will review the lawfulness of agencies’ decisions or actions, as well as the reasonableness and fairness of those actions in the circumstances.

The Ombudsman will not usually intervene until the aggrieved person has raised their concerns with the responsible agency.

The Ombudsman is independent and impartial, and focuses on the rule of law and fairness.

The current Ombudsman is ‘Aisea Havea Taumoepeau SC. He was appointed on 24 October 2014 for a term of 5 years.

‘Aisea studied law at Victoria University of Wellington and graduated with an LLB, and was admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand. He also graduated with LLM from the University of Melbourne.

‘Aisea made a career in the Tongan Government legal office, then known as the Crown Law Department (now the Attorney General’s Office). He worked his way up and became the Solicitor General (and ex officio member of the Civil Service Staff Board) for 14 years, before becoming the Attorney General and Minister of Justice for 3 years. He then spent 10 years in private practice, including being a member (or chairman) of various statutory boards and public enterprises, before his appointment as Ombudsman.