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Corrections' trail of incompetence

Simon Power National Party Law & Order Spokesman

9 March 2005

Corrections' trail of incompetence

A report on the planning and building of New Zealand's four newest prisons reveals an astounding trail of incompetence and mismanagement by the Corrections Department, says National's Law & Order spokesman, Simon Power.

He is commenting on the Progress Report on Regional Prisons Development Project, released under the Official Information Act.

"There is some astounding material in this document. It confirms what National has been saying for ages - that the prisons construction budget blowout has been caused by incompetence and mismanagement."

The report, dated 15 December 2005, reveals:

· Design miscalculations: 'The rates used in the calculation of escalation were national figures across all construction types. It is now evident that prison developments are atypical, and, for example, use far more steel fabrication than a similar commercial building.'
* Cost miscalculations: At Auckland Women's Prison, cost increases were caused partly by '... compliance cost associated with changes to the Building Code ($0.3 million) and the Holidays Act ($0.5 million) ...'. At Springhill: 'Compliance with the Building Act ... impacts construction of all timber fabrications at over $1000 per cell and redesign, labour, programme and preliminary and general costs.'
· The department considered deferring or delaying the building of Springhill because of cost overruns. The report details four options, but none were used because revised muster forecasts 'do not provide sufficient space for ... delaying (or staging) the opening of SHCF.'
· That maintenance at other prisons is threatened by the cost over-runs: '... the opportunity cost of funding these cost increases off the Department's balance sheet is that this cash will not be available for other fiscal risk, such as Mt Eden.'

"This is incompetence of the highest order," says Mr Power. "To be building and running prisons and not be aware that they have to be built stronger than other buildings is absolutely astounding.

"And then to be prepared to run up the white flag and actually consider stopping construction of a much-needed prison just because you couldn't get your figures right in the first place is a very sad indictment on management.

"The inquiry into the constructions budget blowout may as well stop right now. We know where the problem lies - with prisons management and the Minister who oversees the whole thing. This is appalling."

ENDS

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