Minister of Infrastructure failed to release real details of tsunami construction, Dr Eke claims

The Minister of Infrastructure and his staff have failed to give the public correct information about the tsunami construction works, MP for ‘Atatā, Dr ‘Aisake Eke claimed this week.

Minister of Infrastructure Sevenitiini Toumo’ua and MP Dr ‘Aisake Eke

Dr Eke’s claim came in the wake of the relocation of the ‘Atatā tsunami victims from a hall at Kolomotu’a to the newly created village of ‘Atatā Si’i.

As Kaniva News reported last week, a group of people from ‘Atatā who were made homeless by the 2021 Hungas eruption and tsunami had been ordered to move into tents at ‘Atatā Si’i just as the cyclone season has  begun.

They do not have bathrooms and toilets. They were told by the government to share  the ‘Atatā Si’i’s residents’ bathrooms and toilets.

Following our report, the Ministry said on its Facebook page this week that it had shown (“fakanofonofo”) the victims who had been living in the hall at Kolomotu’a their new homes at ‘Atatā Si’i. However, it did not say that these people were living in tents and they were told to share toilets and bathrooms with people who first settled at ‘Atatā Si’i.

It also said the Ministry of Lands and Survey, together with the estate holder’s agent, were still working on land for the recent relocated victims, implying there would be no construction on these lands until the Ministry finalised the question of ownership of the land.

Kaniva News spoke with some residents of ‘Atatā Si’i who said the arrival of the remaining ‘Atatāans made it difficult for those who were already settled in the new village.

Dr Eke said the tsunami reconstruction was slow because local construction contractors were disappointed with the Minister of Infrastructure, Hon. Sevenitiini Toumo’ua. 

He said the contractors were unhappy after Hon. Toumo’ua fixed the contract for each new house at what was claimed to be an undervalued price.

He said these contractors submitted a petition to the Parliament before a Parliamentary committee was selected to work on it. The Select Committee members included Dr Eke, Hon. Toumo’ua, MP Tevita Puloka and MP Lord Tu’ivakanō.

Dr Eke said Hon. Toumo’ua was unco-operative and failed to provide important information from his Ministry to the committee.  

He said the Minister refused to provide the Ministry’s  bill of quantity so that the Committee could compare it with the contractors’ costs and estimate.

Dr Eke said the committee assessed the costs for building materials and other related expenses for a new house was TP$130,979 based on houses which had already been built. The Minister offered an amount of only TP$85,000 to the contractors. The Ministry’s costing of a one storey house was $90,000 but the committee reviewed the figure and said a fair cost was TP $154,420.

Dr Eke said some contractors initially agreed to take the Minister’s offer, but subsequently ran short of money to complete the construction. They eventually complained and many pulled out.

Dr Eke said the Ministry should have reimbursed the companies.

“The Ministry especially the Minister had been underperforming (“ta’efakafiemālie”) in handling the tsunami construction project”, Dr Eke said.

“The information they released to the public was not reliable.

He said the construction should have been conducted without delays.

“There was enough fund donated by from overseas donors for the construction and there is TP$95 million of government’s cash reserve funds”, he told Kaniva News.

“There are funds for other various projects that could be postponed and redirected them for the housing construction.

“There is enough money, but the construction works are slow for various reasons”.

As we reported last week, Deputy Prime Minister Sāmiu Vaipulu told the Legislative Assembly the houses of the families who were moved to ‘Atatā Si’i  had not been damaged by the tsunami.

Hon. Vaipulu said the assessment report for the reconstruction projects was based on those whose houses had been damaged. He told the House the ‘Atatā Si’i estate holder had provided land for the tsunami victims and that the government was looking for funding.

“Leave it for the government to figure out what to do for these people.,” Hon. Vaipulu said.

Dr Eke said the people of ‘Atatā should have not been allowed to return to the island as it was now a red zone.

Kaniva News has contacted The Ministry of Infrastructure for comment.

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