Cabinet overturns Tenders Board decision scrapping Vaia'ata Prison
Cabinet has overturned a decision by the Tenders Board to halt the building of a prison project at Vaia’ata, Savai'i and seek competitive bidders to complete its construction.
“Cabinet has decided against the decision of the Tender board [to put the remaining works for the Vaia’ata prison to tender] and that works for the prison will resume soon,” the Minister for Police and Prisons, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt told the Samoa Observer on Tuesday.
Earlier this month the Chairman of the Tenders Board, Sili Epa Tuioti, revealed that plans to rebuild the Vaia’ata prison by prisoners, without a company or tender process have been scrapped.
The arrangement, involving having prisoners build a prison building without the involvement of a tender process or a private company led some critics to describe it as a “highly unusual” project.
“It should have been tendered in the first place,” Sili said earlier this month.
“The [project] will be available for tender as soon as possible.”
Efforts to get comments from Sili on Tuesday were unsuccessful as of press time.
But Tialavea said there was a logical reason that the Cabinet allowed prisoners themselves to build the Vaia’ata prison.
“The blueprint that we have indicates that for one block it [would cost] $1.7 million for the materials and the labour [through a company] , versus the $600,000 [...] that was approved for this project [as it was structured],” the Minister said.
“There are certain aspects of the prisons that I changed a little bit, such as the sinks.
“At Tanumalala they use all stainless steel, but at Vaiaata they are using [clay] sinks; also the ceiling.
“Over at Tanumalala, security is a huge factor therefore, the ceiling is solid and [two years later] for Vaia’ata the ceiling is plywood.
“Only low-risk prisoners will be housed in Vaia’ata to assist with the farm that has been feeding the prisoners.
“Also keep in mind the Vaia’ata while it is a prison, while concrete walls with metal bars, but it is still treated as a family home.”
The Samoa Observer reviewed the documents outlining where the $600,000 was spent in terms of materials and equipment used for the prison.
According to the documents, more than $100,000 of the funds allocated by Cabinet for the project remains.
The Minister explained that Cabinet had endorsed a budget of $600,000 for the construction.
The Ministry of Police and Prisons has disputed reports that an additional $200,000 has been allocated to the project.
Tailavea said he has confidence in the “experienced” carpenter currently building the prison.
“As I told you before, that prison in Vaia’ata is built by someone who has experienced under my supervision,” the Minister said.
“I am a certified builder and while the Tenders Board is concerned about policy with all due respect, we are trying to save public funds, by allowing me and the prisoners to complete this project.
“The Tanumalala prison [is] a huge project and it was locally funded; the Government did not receive any financial assistance other than the Japanese Government partly funding the high-security gate.
“We need to build a prison in Savai’i [that does] not necessarily have to be costly, hence proposing that we will build the prison, free of labor.
“Low-risk prisoners will be able to have on-hand training [and] at the same time some rehabilitation of what it feels like to get out in the community.”