Minority Leader Charges APC
By Idrissa Balogun Tejan
Opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) Minority Leader in Parliament Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai has charged the ruling All Peoples Congress to import more buses so as to address the age-old problem of transportation which, she noted, will correspondingly enhance the socio economic wellbeing of the masses.
She made this call at the well of parliament past Wednesday 22nd July 2015 in response to the presentation of the Hon. Minister of Transport and Aviation, Leonard Balogun Koroma, who was summoned in accordance with sections 107(2) and 93(3) of the 1991 constitution and parliamentary standing order to brief the peoples’ representatives on the procedures culminating the recent importation of 100 buses from the Peoples Republic of China.
The Minority Leader applauded the public’s curiosity, engendered by our collective quest for government accountability, and described the public’s interest in the importation of the buses as an indication that democracy is at work in Sierra Leone. “This means, claims by some sectors of the opposition that government is muzzling free speech is basically untrue,” a renowned civil servant fumed on condition of anonymity.
Dr. Bernadette Lahai further described the issue of public transportation as a felt need and commended the APC government for addressing a felt need of the people for which constituents will hold Members of Parliament accountable in the event of seeking another mandate in an election. She acclaimed that the people who will be using the buses will not be allowed to board or charged a fare based on their political affiliation but because they are Sierra Leoneans.
The SLPP Minority Leader said even though government has made a commendable effort, for the first time in the history of this country, to import 100 buses to address the issue of public transportation, more buses are needed and also urged government to import more buses.
Speaking earlier in his presentation, Minister of Transport and Aviation Leonard Balogun Koroma explained that as Minister he is not a member of the procurement committee of his ministry and that the loan agreement under which the buses were procured was negotiated by the Public Debt department of the Ministry of Finance, Development and Economic Planning and not by his ministry.
Minister Leonard Balogun Koroma recalled the issue of the long lines of people waiting to board transport to and from work on a daily basis is a concern to President Koroma, as it is an election promise made to by the APC in 2012, and that it was President Koroma who instructed him to address the problem within the shortest possible time.
He disclosed that following discussions with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development on the provision of funds for the procurement of 100 buses to help solve the acute transportation problem in the country, an offer was received from Ploy Technology Group in China for the provision of a loan of US$12m as there were no provisions in the 2014 budget to accommodate the procurement of 100 buses. “… in short we did not have the money,” the Minister told Members of Parliament.
Refuting allegations making the rounds that it is only the buses that cost US$12m, Minister Koroma explained that the US$12m is comprehensive package which includes: Cost of the 100 Buses; Shipping freight and Insurance; Export Credit Insurance costs; Interest amount calculated at 6 % per annum of Loan amount for 2 years; Two Mobile workshops; 3 Service 4WD vehicles; 2 years worth of spare parts; Various machinery and equipments to replace the old and out dated colonial machinery at the SLRTC; Training and technical support to SLRTC; Overseas and domestic travel expenses for delegation from Sierra Leone to China and back; Chinese Technical team attachment to SLRTC and Local Agency Fees and charges.
“All of the above represented a package and the proposal was submitted to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development which accepted it as a loan package to be negotiated by the Public Debt Division of that Ministry which by statute negotiates all loan agreements and terms and conditions of behalf of the Government of Sierra Leone,” he furthered his explanation.
He said the buses are brand new and are designed and manufactured according to specifications to befit the terrain and weather conditions of Sierra Leone, including other considerations provided by the Ministry of Transport and Aviation (MTA) and the Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation (SLRTC).
“As I said earlier, all loans to the government of Sierra Leone are by statute negotiated by the Ministry of Finance, through its Public Debt Directorate. In this case both the General Manager, Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation (SLRTC) and Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED) negotiated the interest rates and the repayment terms based on the customized specifications provided by the SLRTC and SLRSA Transport Engineer,” he added, making it very clear that his Ministry was not involved in the negotiating process and that all the procurement procedures were fully adhered to and met with the approval of the relevant authorities. (Read the Minister’s full statement on page 7).
Majority Leader and Leader of government business Hon Ibrahim Bundu thanked Minister Logus Koroma for responding to the call of Parliament while further expressing appreciation to the government for taking such a positive move to address the issue of transportation in the country.
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