Chief Auditor urged to investigate Prisons funding

Member of Parliament for Salega, Olo Fiti Vaai, has called on the Controller and Auditor General, Fuimaono Camillo Afele, to launch an investigation into the amount of public funds spent on the Tanumalala Prison.

With the project having already cost $18 million, Olo made the call after an additional $4.3 million was approved in the supplementary budget 2019/2020 for the Samoa Prisons and Corrections Services (S.P.C.S.). 

The budget allocation includes $311,000 to fund the construction of the Vaiaata Prison and $1.7 million for miscellaneous works. 

According to Olo, the Ministry is always requesting "millions" in every supplementary budget.

“The Auditor should investigate the prisons work to ensure the funds appropriated for the project was properly spent," Olo said during an interview with the Samoa Observer. 

“My request is for the Auditor to value the assets at the prison and to align it with the money that has already been spent because another request is being made for more money to complete the works [at the Tanumalala prison].” 

Questions sent to Auditor General Fuimaono have not been responded to.

But Olo also raised concerns about the Government's spending at the prison, noting that while the Prison is asking for a backup generator worth $300,000, many district hospitals in Samoa don't have that luxury. 

Olo said a 50KVA generator is more than enough to power the prison. 

“The generator is supposed to be used for essential machines or services when the power goes out,” he explained. 

“The 200KVA they are asking for can be used to power up the whole constituency but a 50KVA is appropriate so that it can power up the essential machines or areas like the security lights. 

“They want to spend more money to make the prisoners comfortable yet we have district hospitals that do not have generators to backup essential machines used by the sick.” 

Gagaemauga No. 3 M.P., La’auli Leuatea Polataivao, also queried the cost of the generator in Parliament. 

A quote provided by La’auli in a file before Parliament this week, showed a KVA200 generator he bought cost $72,000 from a New Zealand company, Diesel Generator Hire Sales and Services. 

Another miscellaneous works that Olo also questioned is the repetitive funds enlisted for water tanks and the fence at the Tanumalala prison from various budgets. 

Records from the previous budgets show that a $600,000 was approved in supplementary budget 2018/2019 for water tanks and another $446,000 in the same year’s main budget. 

Another $300,000 was approved in the 2019/2020 supplementary budget for water tanks.

As for the fence, Olo pointed out a total of $2.3 million has already been allocated for the fence and cell block from the 2016 main budget, 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 supplementary. 

In regards to the access road at Tanumalala, Olo said it is another area that has had millions already approved for it. 

A sum of $1 million was approved in main budget 2016/2017 for access road, another $1.1 million in the 2018/2019 supplementary and additional $1.3 million in the 2019/2020 supplementary.

Olo estimates that more than $25 million has been spent on the prison alone.

“Three times we have approved expenditure on the same project on the roads,” he said. 

“There are a lot of questions about the projects and even the fence and the water tanks its like we are trying to build fences to keep water tanks inside.” 

It was not possible to get a comment from the Minister of Prisons, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt. 

He was in Savai’i with other Cabinet Ministers who are inspecting Government works in the island. 

On the issue of water tanks, the Chairperson for the Finance and Expenditure Committee, Aliimalemanu Alofa Ituau said the amount shown in previous supplementary was not actioned and only effective in the current budget. 

Speaking in Parliament last week, she clarified that the Ministry of Finance (M.O.F.) savings was used to fund the prison fencing and water tanks. 

However now that the Small Island Development State (SIDS) buses have been sold and received extra funds this will be used to reimburse the M.O.F savings.

Also in Parliament, Tialavea said because the Government did not have funding for the project, it was approved that the construction works at Tanumalala will be divided up for three years. 

He explained the whole works is supposed to cost $25 million and because of the lack of funding the amount would be distributed separately for three years. 

The $4,350,729 million estimated for the S.P.C.S. 2019/2020 supplementary includes; 

  1. Staff quarter                                              $1,000,000
  2. Miscellaneous remaining works                $1,175,170 
  3. Additional staff and on call allowance     $469,283
  4. Doctors salary (6 months)                         $45,500 
  5. Assets for town cleaning                          $30,000 

 The Finance Committee noted the $45,500 is for the doctor’s salary who will take on the responsibility of taking care of the inmates at Tanumalala. However, where there are cases of critical conditions they will be sent to the main hospital for treatment. 

A total supplementary of $1,175,170 for other miscellaneous works includes: 

  1. Vaiaata project                                                      $311,446 
  2. Anti-climb fence for female blocks                      $350,000 
  3. Generators                                                             $300,000 
  4. Water tanks                                                           $300,000 
  5. Wireless devices                                                    $40,000 
  6. Storage and freezer                                               $50,000 

 

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