THE Legislative Assembly parliamentary session 2022 will be officially closed next Thursday, Dec 8th.

The Speaker of Parliament, Lord Fakafanua confirmed this during Parliament session today.

He said the confirmation was conveyed in a letter from the Palace Office this morning.

Meanwhile in another development, the Whole House Committee is discussing a petition from the Tonga National Construction Inc urging the House’s intervention to increase the budget estimation provided by the Project Management Unit (PMU) for the Tsunami House Reconstruction Projects.

The petitioners are dissatisfied with the low budget proposal provided in the contract by PMU. For a one-story house to be built, the estimated cost is TOP$90,000 and a budget of TOP80,000 was also provided by PMU for a concrete blocked wall and timber house.

The contractors pointed out that better deals were provided for the reconstruction effort in post TC Gita and TC Harold, yet the construction and building materials were relatively low compared to the soaring current market price which now has doubled and tripled after the Hunga Tonga - Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruptions and tsunami.

A public consultation meeting in October was held between PMU and the contractors in their efforts to address the matter. The meeting also advised the contractors, that PMU would get back to the disgruntled builders in two weeks. A month later, PMU has yet to advise the contractors on the outcome of their meeting and this had prompted the contractors to submit a petition to Parliament.

The petitioners also sought help from a civil engineer Roger Hasiata and also a qualified surveyor Talanoa Hafoka, who also provided a much higher estimation for the local contractors in compared to the original costing provided by PMU. It proposed that it costs TOP$183,600 for building a one-story house and a budget of TOP$152,000 for a concrete blocked wall and timber house.

For that reason, the 28 local contractors are curious how PMU derived the previous budget proposals. They argued the budget provided by the qualified surveyor was based on the current market price after further consultation with the local suppliers.

The petition also stated costings that were overlooked such as the percentage of waste, preliminaries and contingency to ensure the work is complete to building standard.

In response, the Hon. Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku and Hon. Minister for Infrastructure Sevenitini Toumo’ua requested Parliament to refer the petition to Cabinet for reconsideration.

Hon. Toumo’ua said there were 268 houses to be constructed in the tsunami projects. The tsunami house reconstruction projects only targeted local contractors and foreign construction companies were excluded from the tendering process.

The initiative was part of Government’s effort to empower the local experienced builders and their work. The Hon. Minister said the normal procedure for screening the contractors’ financial background was not really enforced because the intention was to help them in the construction process.

Hence, the MOI Minister pointed out, it’s obvious the issue here is construction management and lack of financial skills to effectively manage their work. He said it was also apparent these contractors are struggling financially. On that note, he also requested Parliament to refer the matter to Government for further reviewing.

At the same the Hon. Prime Minister pointed out Cabinet has approved in October for an increase of .9 percent in the budget estimates for the tsunami reconstruction projects taking into consideration the high costs building supplies and inflation. 

When Parliament concludes today, MPs are still discussing the petition in the Whole House Committee.

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