The new Minister responsible for Prisons who is also the Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tioniosio Seigafolava is a man of strong faith and belief.
He needs to be.
Tasked with overseeing the building of a new prison at Tanugamalala, the Ministry has an allocated $1 million from Government, less than a quarter of the targeted amount of $10 million needed for the project.
The Minister believes it is not impossible and he and his Associate Minister are depending on prayers and donor funds.
“You pray to God,” said Tialavea.
“At the end of the day, prayer is all we have. “We have $1 million for the preparations and we are hoping to secure funds.
“We prepare papers and submit them to Cabinet who have the authority to make decisions.
“There are developments that started with $5 tala like the National University and with that as an example, we can do the same.”
The relocation of Tafaigata prison to Tanugamalala is for the construction of eight buildings including a medical clinic and a rehabilitation center.
“We were given $1 million from the budget for the preparation of the prison,” said Tialavea.
“That was to prepare the roads, electricity, water and other thing. At the moment we are currently looking for funds to fund the actual prison buildings.” According to Tialavea, Prisons and Correctional Services were given a total budget of $5 million for this financial year.
From that amount, $1 million goes towards prison preparations, nearly $3 million goes to wages while $360,000 is allocated for food at prison for the 12 months.
The Minister stressed that while prayers go a long way, the building of the prison is crucial.
“Everyone knows about the urgency of the prison,” he said. “We need it to be done.”
Some of the issues in the prison project have been securing donors and funding.
Last year the Chinese Embassy expressed interest in building the fence for the prison.
But things have changed.
“There were talks with them to build the fence but their priorities have changed,” said Tialavea.
“They have instead offered to build the Police Academy.”
It was not possible to get an official comment from the Chinese Embassy yesterday.
An email sent to China’s ambassador third secretary, Liu Peng was not responded to by press time.
A new cement fence for the prison at Tafaigata will be lifted four meters up and wired on the top.
Meanwhile, the prison continues to be overcrowded with about 400 prisoners and an additional 70 others on remand.
Tialavea explained that there are only 53 staff handling the prisoners with 20 of them being sworn in. The other 30 unsworn officers are running the administration and rehabilitation works.
As to how the Authority handles the overcrowded prison, Tialavea said culture is the answer.
“It’s run like a village where there is an elderly matai who looks after each cell,” he said.
“We cannot move away from our culture and it has shown that it works…we cannot afford more staff.”
At the moment, a building committee has been selected to deal with the project.
The sketch of the prison has been completed but is yet to be submitted and approved by Cabinet.
Tialavea said the Samoa Water Authority, Electric Power Corporation and Land and Transport Authority are working on roads to the allocated land as well as trying to take water and electricity to the area.
A tract of 550 acres has been put aside for the facilities.