The government has saved more than TP$2 million on the current work it did at the Popua Park and Golf Course project.
The project to redevelop the 10-acre swampy site was initiated by the Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva in 2015.
Hon. Pohiva said the plan for the golf course was initiated by late King Tupou IV but was not implemented before he died.
It was intended to provide a sustainable, clean environment in the area after closing down the Popua landfill, provide a new national recreational park and save and upgrade the traditional pigeon mounts which had significant historical values.
An 18-hole golf course development on the swamplands was also planned.
An independent report by the Pacific Engineering Consultant Group (PECG) showed the government has spent only TP$648,000 on the project.
“It is evident there is savings,” the report said.
The PECG report was conducted on June 25-30 this year by three experts including Civil Engineer Sevenitini Toumoua, Suliasi Havea and Semisi Fifita.
The report covered the cost for three years since 2015 which was average at $200,000 a year.
Minister of Finance Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa said the saving had been made by hiring daily workers who were paid at low rates and agreeing with the Ministry of Infrastructure to hire its machinery for the project and only pay for their petrol.
He said prisoners at Hu’atolitoli who had experience in some of the work under the project had been employed.
A report by the Auditor General last month showed nine daily workers had been employed to carry out the project.
Three of them including former MP ‘Etuate Lavulavu, ‘Automalo Tupou and Sione Kava were not paid for the work they did for various reasons, the report said.
The Auditor General’s special report showed Cabinet allocated TP$6 million last August from the National Planning $26 million budget sub-vote to pay for the Popua project.
The PECG report said if the project had been outsourced to a private company it would have cost TP$2.9 million. If it had been carried out by the Ministry of Infrastructure it would have cost government $1.7 million, the report said.
It said quantities used for the audit were measured and detailed and the rates used for comparison were obtained from Ministry of Infrastructure and Malapo Quarry representing the private sector.
PECG was engaged by the Prime Minister’s Office to carry out construction auditing to verify the current physical and financial situation of the project.
The project has been a controversial topic since it was revealed about three years ago, with critics claimed it had caused more bad effect than good.
This included claims by Dr ‘Ana Maui Taufe’ulungaki, a former Minister of Education and Member of Parliament who believed that “the massive habitat and environmental destruction taking place at the mouth of the lagoon should not have happened because Tonga has clear environmental laws that were intended to protect such areas.”
“This project will kill the reef and the fisheries the reef supports,” she reportedly said.
Last December Kaniva news interviewed former Member of Parliament and CEO for the Ministry of Education Dr. Viliami Fukofuka, who spoke about the Popua project.
Fukofuka, who lived about half a kilometre away from the Park, said it was a brilliant idea and that the Park has beautified the village.
The area was used as dumping site known before the project as Popua landfill.
Hon. Pohiva said this was the face of Nuku’alofa CBD to the eastern site and he had long wanted to change it into something that would suit the Nuku’aofa location.
The main points
- The government has saved more than TP$2 million on the current work it did at the Popua Park and Golf Course project.
- Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva said the plan for the golf course was initiated by late King Tupou IV but was not implemented before he died.
- An independent report by the Pacific Engineering Consultant Group (PECG showed the government has spent only TP$648,000 on the project.
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