Samoa's government has ordered a freeze on all funding to the new prison project as the cost escalates slowly towards the $US7.8 million.

A direction had been issued to discontinue any variations for the ongoing prison project unless expressly approved by Cabinet.

It was not clear when it would start now that the funding restrictions had been put in place.

The Cabinet also gave notice that all further works in the next phase must go through the government tendering process.

There had been public criticism for the awarding of the contract for the first phase of the project.