PM 'Akilisi Pohiva. Photo/Kalino Lātū

Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva has defended his government’s handling of the rebuilding of schools destroyed by Cyclone Gita in February 2018.

There have been complaints about the condition of temporary classrooms which have been held in tents.

There was also a complaint about the health conditions of school children taught in these temporary classrooms.

Hon. Pōhiva said the government had to follow the funding agencies’ requirement about how their money should be used. He described the condition as “very strict.”

“The money for the construction of schools and homes that were totally destroyed actually come from multi-lateral funding agencies and each of those agencies have very strict guidelines for disbursement and rigorous procurement procedures with which we must comply,” Hon. Pōhiva said in a news release this afternoon.

Works begin

The Minister of MEIDECC told parliament in June the reconstruction project would begin this month and was expected to be completed  by August 2020.

The minister told parliament the government had received the money but it “has to obey” what the funding agencies wanted, according to parliament’s minute number 9A of June.

Hon. Tei said the government attempted to escalate the process, but the agencies wanted to make sure everything was “pau” (guaranteed).

Destroyed schools grouped

He said the affected schools had been divided into three groups.

The first group included Vaini, Navutoka and Fasimoeafi primary schools. The second group included five schools and the last group included seven primary and high schools. He did not specify which schools were involved in these groups.

Hon. Tei said the building of group one would begin this month and was expected to be completed in December.

Work on the second group would begin in October this year and was expected to be completed in April next year.

Reconstruction of the third group was expected to start in November this year until August 2020.

Hon. Tei did not reveal the details of what had delayed the process, but implied that these included discussions of whether the construction companies should be recruited from overseas or from within Tonga.

Frustration

The Prime Minister said he acknowledged that there had been major delays in the construction of homes and schools that had been totally destroyed.  

“There is no way we can bypass those stringent and time-consuming regulations and procedures,” the Prime Minister said.

“I am as frustrated as the home-owners and owners of the schools are in the delays in construction. All I can do is plead for their patience!”

Complaint

According to a report in Kakalu ‘O Tonga newspaper last week, a teacher at a school where classes are still held in tents was concerned at the lack of ventilation. 

The teacher reportedly said the children had been sick over the past 12 months.

The story was also carried by Radio New Zealand international.

Donations

As Kaniva news reported last year, the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) said all of the $TP52.6 million donated to Tonga by overseas donors would be spent on the recovery process.

NEMO said TP$23.6 million in cash had been deposited in the government’s cyclone Gita’s bank account, with TP$2 million deposited into its normal account.

Cabinet had allocated TP$21.4 for the Cyclone sub-committee to help the recovery process.

It said the money would be spent on specific areas including shelter, education, food and security, and communication. The smallest allocation, TP$200,000, would go to communications, with the largest outlay, TP$7.7 million, going to essential services, including electricity maintenance.

In its latest report on the state of Tonga after Cyclone Gita, NEMO said 819 households had  been destroyed and 3889 households damaged.

The main points

  • Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva has defended its handling of the rebuilding of schools destroyed by Cyclone Gita in February 2018.
  • There have been complaints about the condition of temporary classrooms which have been held in tents.

For more information

Donor money allocated to cyclone recovery, but rebuilding yet to be budgeted

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