Minister washes hands clean of prison contract
The Minister of Prisons, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, has washed his hands clean about having anything to do with his brother’s Construction Company being awarded the contract to build the $10million prison facility at Tanugamalala.
Speaking to the Sunday Samoan, the Minister admitted that the perceived conflict of interest was questioned by the Tenders Board.
“The delay in the Tenders Board decision was due to an investigation they launched against me and I welcomed their investigation,” Tialavea told the Sunday Samoan.
“I have nothing to hide so they asked for additional information from my brother and that was provided.”
Tialavea’s brother is Alaiasa Schwartz Hunt. He runs Schwartz Construction, which has won the bid to build the facility.
“I must say my brother is a certified contractor in New Zealand and Samoa,” the Minister said.
“So the Tenders Board cleared me of any conflict of interest and they awarded the contract to my brother. There were two lower bidders than my brother but they were not qualified for some reason and so they awarded my brother.”
On Friday during the groundbreaking ceremony, Alaiasa acknowledged the Tenders Board for their faith in him to carry out the project.
“At the moment we were looking at next week to start,” he said.
“We are looking at next week to have a preliminary meeting with the Steering Committee and then we will go from there.”
Alaiasa confirmed their company’s bid was $7.4million.
“We are a local contractor and this is one of the many projects that we have tendered for,” he said.
Asked about the Tenders Board’s decision to query his connection to the Minister, demanding more information, Alaiasa said: “I understand the Tender Board’s prerogative, and if they needed more information and more time to go through the process that is up to them. I am confident that the system is working.”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi said the multi-million project is to modernise and improve prison facilities.
“The Project is funded by the government of Samoa and will utilize approximately 30 acres of the total 550 acres that was approved by the Government of Samoa for the entire Project,” he said.
“The rest of the land will be utilized for farming and vocational programs. I want to thank the Government of Japan through its Ambassador, Shinya Aoki for the funding to build a proper and secure perimeter fence for the new prison premises."
This new purpose built Prison Facility will replace the existing Tafaigata Prison, which has limited holding capacity, deteriorating housing, according to the Prime Minister.
"The priority of the Government is to improve safety measures in Samoa and to protect the public through the enhancement of crime prevention, secure prison facility and culturally appropriate prisoner management."
"The new Tanumalala Prison will hold 720 prisoners; 480 sentenced prisoners, 120 female prisoners and 120 custody prisoners. These facilities will hold prisoners according to their security classification such as maximum, medium and low risks prisoners."
The Prime Minister also acknowledged the assistance by the key personnel from the Government Ministries and Corporations for this project.
"I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of all organisations that have assisted the Ministry in making this Project possible."
"I am fully convinced that the work we are laying today is the cornerstone of developing a new era of prisoner management in Samoa as we lead the Pacific in corrections security and rehabilitation of prisoners."