1. The Commissioner totally rejects the allegations of corruption and says that it lacks factual basis and the article has been written as a result of discontent by Customs Officer Vehitau Ma'ukie.
2. It has arisen over an acting appointment issue which Ma'ukie believed that he was obtaining promotion in an acting capacity rather than any problem of corruption within the Ministry.
3. On or about the 11th November 2010, Vehitau Ma'ukie was appointed in AN acting capacity to assist Peter Nash, the Deputy-Commissioner for Customs, for a period of 6 months. Unfortunately the appointment was made by the Prime Minister at the time who was acting as Chief Commissioner without consulting the Head of Revenue ministry. Peter Nash's contract was due to expire in 6 weeks time on the 31st December 2010 (not 6 months).
4. At the same time Kelemite Vahe was directed to take his leave entitlement which expired on or about the 4th January 2011. It would appear that the purpose of Vahe being required to go on leave was to enable an investigation of alleged corruption to take place when in fact there was no official complaint or charge made against him. The Ministry was not informed of what the alleged misconduct or offence that the Officer had committed.
5. On the 4th January 2011, Peter Nash had left Customs, Kelemite Vahe had returned to work and he was senior to Vehitau Ma'ukie. A meeting was held on the 5th January 2011 of Customs Supervisors and Senior Officers of the Ministry to re-solve the situation in Customs and Ma'ukie was directed to return to Customs in Vavau as Officer in charge there. He was not happy with the decision and appealed to the Minister. After obtaining Crown Law opinion on the issue, the position was confirmed and Kelemite Vahe was transferred from Customs to await the outcome of the investigation that is being conducted by the Public Service Commission.
6. There was no complaint by Ma'ukie against the Commissioner at the time he appealed to the Minister. The two underlying reasons which he has used to accuse the Commissioner of Revenue for terminating his acting appointment are totally untrue and deceitful. The instructions given to him in the 2 cases were to speed up the clearance process instead of delaying it. There were no instructions to change or alter the valuation of the goods or the revenue to be corrected. It is highly improper of Mr Ma'ukie to make the allegations of which he knows are untrue.
7. Customs valuation is one of the key issues in Customs clearance process and the procedures are followed strictly. The Audit Unit is tasked with investigations of any improper assessments or corrections to the proper valuation of dutiable goods.
8. The audit investigation is an on-going situation within Customs to insure that the ministry enforces the law. The allegation of revenue loss due to improper collection or corruption in the range of TOP$30 million to TOP$300 million is preposterous. The latter figure would far exceed the total costs of all imports to Tonga. We have a system that determines the value of goods imported and the amount of tax to be assessed on all goods and failure to follow that procedure would be detected in due course.
9. It should be noted that the December month every year always brings in the highest return of revenue for the year. The level of revenue collected by the Customs Division during 2010 would have been collected whether Mr Ma'ukie was working there or not. He's entitled to his self-indulgence and may be forgiven for believing he is solely responsible.
10. The Ministry is available at all times to assist customers and to give explanations whenever required
Commissioner of Revenue
Ministry of Revenue
P.O Box 502
Ph (676) 21030 / 25638