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Nuku’alofa – September 3, 2019: 10am (Nuku’alofa Times): Procurement systems in place and the rigorous policing of the process had delayed the reconstruction works following Cyclone Gita in 2018.

Government made the statement this morning following a radio report last week which blamed the World Bank.

“The Government of Tonga would like to clarify statements made last week, August 28th, by a Prime
Minister’s Office spokesperson during a radio interview regarding delays on reconstruction of schools
damaged during cyclone Gita,” the statement from Finance Minister Dr Pohiva Tu’ionetoa said.

In an interview with Radio New Zealand last week, the Prime Minister’s Media and Political advisor Lopeti Senituli identified the World Bank as the administrator of funds for school reconstruction and suggested that the World Bank was responsible for delays to the project.

This morning Dr Tu’ionetoa said that funds for school reconstruction are administered by the government through the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management,
Environment, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC) in accordance with World Bank

“MEIDECC is also collaborating with the Ministry of Infrastructure (MoI) and Ministry of Education
and Training (MET) on the school reconstruction project,” the statement said.

Funding totaling approximately USD13.81 million has been included for school reconstruction activities, including USD11.85 million from the World Bank and AUD3 million from the
Australian Government.

This will cover the works for the 30 schools prioritized by the government.

Dr Tu’ionetoa said that It should be noted that the Gita Recovery Framework, approved by Government on 27th June 2018, is in three phases.

This includes the immediate response from February 2018 to June 2018; the short term recovery from July 2018 to June 2019 and was extended to December 2019; and the long term reconstruction from July 2019 to June 2020.

“The classrooms reconstruction falls under the long term reconstruction period. This
Recovery Framework follows the new method used by the United Nations for disaster recovery,” Dr Tu’ionetoa said.

He said there are several reasons for the delay in the re-construction work, including:

I. Cyclone Gita hit Tonga specifically the main island of Tongatapu and ‘Eua on 12 February 2018 and Government of Tonga and the World Bank worked in collaboration with applications for  assistance from the Bank and the Australian Government which was approved by the World Bank Board with an effective date of 25 October 2018;

II. The first step of the reconstruction was the recruitment of a firm to manage design and reconstruction. In this case, the Government of Tonga commenced the process by undertaking an international recruitment process to identify and contract a firm. This recruitment was carried out in consultation with the Bank for no objection and there were a number of delays with the evaluation process including having to sort out a complaint from one of the bidders;

III. Following an open and competitive international procurement process, the firm Cardno was hired
by the Government of Tonga – the contract was signed in March 2019.

IV. It was a rigorous international procurement process and it did take some time – this was necessary to secure an appropriately qualified firm with the necessary experience. This process was open for both international and local contractors;

V. Schools are not being reconstructed as they were – the reconstruction project is focused on ‘building back better’ making schools that are more resilient to extreme weather, with improved disability access and better water, health and sanitation facilities.

VI. The designs will ensure schools are better equipped to withstand future cyclones and have more
gender and disability inclusive facilities – this also takes time.

“Regretfully, the statements made earlier did not fully reflect that the Government of Tonga is administering the funds for school reconstruction works and it is overseen by the Bank to ensure compliance with Bank policies, and while the delays are considerable and acknowledged, there are a
number of factors that have led to them. “We hope to begin reconstruction by end of this month and will continue working with our development partners including the Government of Australia and the World Bank to build back more resilient, better schools into the future,” Hon Dr Tu’i’onetoa said.

The bidding documents for the first three schools have now been finalized by the government and
requests for quotes are being obtained from qualified local construction companies.

All schools have been assessed by the firm recruited by the Government to undertake this work and
designs for the full list of 30 schools in Tongatapu and ‘Eua are being prepared and will be rolled out
successively over the coming months.

Last Friday, 30th August 2019, Government has marked the commencement of the Gita House
Reconstruction Project in a home in Va’ePopua which was completely destroyed by Cyclone Gita.

The homeowner is a widow who has not rebuilt her home since the cyclone.

Government is aiming that by the end of the month (September), the reconstruction of the first lot of the classrooms reconstruction will start and all parties are working hard to achieve this goal.

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