Issue No. 01/2021 – Monday, 11 January 2021 (Kitiona Tausi)
The Private Member of Parliament from Nukulaelae, Hon Namoliki Sualiki asked Government if another generator could be provided for the island of Nukulaelae. He explained that the generator that was sent recently was not working well. The Minister of Transport, Energy and Tourism, Hon Nielu Meisake responded well and said that the Ministry would send workers to fix the problem.
Rt Hon Enele Sopoaga asked about Government’s plan for Secondary Schools because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Hon Timi Melei said that the Ministry would be requesting parents to return all their children to school. Again, Rt Hon Sopoaga requested Government if it is possible to be included in the plan to have the Forms 5,6 and 7 only to attend secondary schools while the rest of the forms -1-4 to have their studies at their respective islands, because of the lockdown.
Hon Melei, however, still wanted all the Secondary School students to attend school unless the parent retain their children at home but there would be great difficulties in their studies. He encouraged parent to take their children to secondary schools.
Hon Monise Laafai, the private Member from Nanumaga asked about the current status of these big projects: the Boat Harbor and the Seawall Projects on Nanumaga. Minister of Public Works, Infrastructure, Labor, Environment, Meteorology and Disaster, Hon Amupelosa Tehulu said, the basic design for the boat harbor has started for the new site and then it would be submitted for Government’s decision and is expected to be complete sometimes in March 2021.
On the seawall project, Minister of Finance, Hon Seve Paeniu responded by saying that it is now being delayed because the island community rejected the original design and requested for a new design. Because of this, government will look at another design option that is acceptable to the community.
Hon Paeniu also responded to the boat harbor saying that it was during Cyclone Tino that it was noticed that the original site for the project was badly affected by the cyclone and thus, came the decision to change to a new site. With this new site, new studies and researches have to be done and again a new start.
Hon Tehulu confirmed to Parliament that the seawall project would take 18 months to construct. The Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project (TCAP) funds the seawalls project while the World Bank funds the boat harbor.
Private Member from Nui, Hon Dr. Puakena Boreham questioned as to how much money that Government has used out of the $5.6 million sent to the Suva Pacific Specialist Hospital under the contract that was signed by the Government and this company.
Minister of Health, Social Welfare and Gender Affairs, Hon Isaia Taape said an amount of $3.879.388 has been paid to Chemstreet Pty Ltd. After a supplementary question from Hon Boreham, Hon Isaia explained that according to the contract, 70% of the $5.6 million is to be paid upfront and the balance of 30% would be paid after the machineries and equipment have been commissioned.
Hon Dr Boreham asked if there is a payment that is yet to be paid knowing that the $5.6 million approved by Parliament has not been fully expended or is this the total amount required to be paid. Hon Taape explained that according to the contract, 70% will be an upfront payment to enable the order processed and the 30% is after the machineries and equipment have been commissioned.
Hon Dr. Boreham asked another supplementary question saying the contract that was approved by Parliament was between Government and the Suva Pacific Specialist Hospital and why the payment was made to Chemstreet. Hon Taape explained that Chemstreet is the company that also owns the Suva Pacific Specialist Hospital and it is this company that the payment is payable to according to the contract that was passed by Parliament.
Hon Puakena was not pleased with the response saying that Chemstreet has not been clear from the Minister’s explanation and she further questioned if there was any due diligence exercise done before the payment was made to Chemstreet.
Hon Taape answered, yes and he continued to explain the history behind this project saying that it was the fruit of a survey done by Chemstreet on the equipment and machineries used in the Princess Margaret Hospital. The survey found that 70% of all these machineries and equipment were no longer in good operational conditions and thus, the need to procure new machineries and equipment and this project came into being. The concern here is to acquire quality machineries and equipment,
Hon Dr Puakena questioned the process of the payment. She said, her concern is the method of how a large sum of government money was paid out. The question was to ensure that amount was fully spent as approved by Parliament. She questioned if there had been any security of the money knowing that the payment had not complied with the Procurement Act. According to the Acts, a maximum of not more than $250,000 can be processed for any payment. Hon Dr. Puakena attacked the Minister on the issue of a Due Diligence exercise saying that government has failed in this process of processing the payment.
Again, Hon Taape explained that there is a provision in the act that authorizes the Ministry of Health to make the payment and this provision was in account of the state of emergency the country was facing.
Hon Dr. Boreham wanted to know the percentage of the costs that could have been saved had the payment was processed in compliance with the Act. She also claimed the $5.6 million approved for the project is a big money. She also revealed that the Chemstreet works under an umbrella company that operates in Tuvalu. “We do not know that there are medical supply company that operates in Tuvalu, said Hon Boreham.
Hon Taape explained that the original project was $7.5 million and Cabinet decided it was too big and then the Ministry revised the budget and $5.6 million was finally approved and the contract was in fact $5.5 million.
Member from Nanumaga, Hon Monise Laafai injected a supplementary question asked if the Procurement Act was complied or should the contract be tendered out. Hon Minister Taape answered the process saying it was, and was done under a special provision in line with the country’s state of emergency.
(To be continued next issue)