Prisons Minister disputes overtime finding
The Minister for Prisons and Correction Services, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, has disputed a Parliamentary Committee's finding that a recent operation transporting prisoners from Tafaigata to Tanumalala cost $138,000 in staff overtime.
“There is no such thing,” said the Minister.
"That funding is specifically for on call Correction Officers that are called in to work; and it is for the whole year.
“I want to make it clear; Correction Officers do not work overtime. They get allowance when they are called in to work to cover shifts for officer that did not show up to work."
According to the Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee report for the first supplementary budget for Financial Year 2019-2020, a total of $138,600 was allotted to pay for staff overtime incurred during the relocation from Tafaigata to Tanumalala.
“An estimate of 330,683 has been allotted to pay for additional 15 positions. Committee there are 153 staff currently working at the prison however an additional 21 positions are requested, so as to minimise the workload on current staff and overtime spending,” says the report.
However the Minister is adamant the $138,600 is to cover an allowance for officers that are called in to work.
Tialavea explained the relocation costs from Tafa’igata to Tanumalala have nothing to do with the $138,600 mentioned in the report.
At the time of the relocation, Tialavea said the operation cost about $100,000.
He said more than 400 inmates are now housed at the new facility and that the Ministry hired 10 buses and 15 trips were made by the motorcade.
Asked about the budget allocated for the transfer, the Minister said that $100,000 was allocated for the operation.
A month later, Deputy Commissioner for Prison and Correctional Services, Levao Rosa Siaosi, says they were only a portion of the costs, most of which was spent on communications equipment.
She said the biggest contributor to the operation's $100,000 price tag was 'walkie talkies'. Prisoners were transported in standard unarmoured buses.
“We also allocated $40,000 plus for the handheld transceiver to use at the new prison; we also provided food and drinks after the operation,” she said at the time.
"I cannot give you the exact amount spent on the network connection, but the bulk of the [$100,000] was allocated for the walkie talkies”.
At the time the layout of the new prison does not afford visibility, requiring extra communications equipment, the Deputy Commissioner said.
Some 15 trips were made between Tafaigata and Tanumalala, a distance which Police say covers 35 miles.