Friday, March 02, 2007

Sierra Leone Roads Authority Brace up for Roads Development

The Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA) on Tuesday 27th February, held a workshop at the Miatta Conference Centre to discuss plans for road development in the country. The workshop which brought together stakeholders including funding agencies, civil society and the media lasted for a whole day with serious delibration on the way forward .

Director General on the High Table

In his opening address, the Minister of Works Dr. J.C Boima told the gathering that, the Road Fund was set up to provide an alternative source of funding for the maintenance of roads, with a view of reducing the heavy financial burden on the Government. The fund he stated is made up of monies jointly collected by the National Revenue Authority (NRA) and Sierra Leone Road Transport Authority (SLRTA) and there after transferred into the account of Sierra Leone Road Authority (SLRA) . Part of this money is used as recurrent expenditure to pay salaries to staff of the SLRA he observed. The importance of upkeeping a Road Fund to enhance sustainability in the maintenance of good roads cannot be over emphasized he said whilst adding that, there is a lot of work to be done in the area of road maintenance especially if the good quality of the roads are to be sustained. Government, Dr. Boima went on to say, had realized that there is a lot of strain on the roads due to a dramatic post conflict increase in the traffic volume, hence he stated that the urge for effective routine maintenance was imperative.

Boima informed that there has been an increase in the fuel levy to Le 1,341 per gallon, which he stated was even less than the Le 3,000 per gallon that was recognised and accepted internationally.

In the interest of transparency Dr. Boima further noted that Government is considering the recommendation made by development partners to transfer the disbursement of the fuel levy by a neutral road fund management board. This move the minister said will create the desired impact and provide golden dividend to the government. Another area highlighted was the devolution of feeder roads maintenance to local councils as the SLRA is willing to abide by the devolution of functions as spelt out in the Local Government Act of 2004. However, concern was noted over the capacity of local councils due to lack of trained personnel on road works at local councils level.

Alhaji I.M Kabbay, Director General of the Sierra Leone Roads Authority, in his presentation observed that the SLRA was established by an Act of Parliament in 1992 and given responsibility of managing and maintaining the road infrastructure and related structures. The purpose of the workshop Alhaji Kebbay said was to sensitize stakeholders on the activities of the SLRA , the costs involved in undertaking these activities, and the extent to which the road funds could go in funding these activities nation wide. It was also an effort to share the authority’s major accomplishments and to brief stakeholders and the public on current and future programmes. He informed that Directors would make various presentations as indicated in the conference programme. He thanked the government and all stakeholders for their continued support, and assured of their commitment in the provision of safe and reliable roads and related structures nationwide.

Up to May 25th 1997, the SLRA according to the Director was satisfactorily carrying out its functions as laid down. Routine and periodic maintenance activities were being carried out in all accessible parts of the country. The situation he said was reversed following the upheaval in the country. As a result, the SLRA’s infrastructure suffered massive damage and their maintenance capacity was almost grounded to a halt. General road maintenance activities either by contract or by SLRA staff came to a standstill and several donor projects were suspended. The revenue base was also seriously depleted owing to the wanton destruction of the vehicle fleet in the country. As an authority desirous of living up to its Mission Statement which is that of providing a safe, reliable and sustainable national road system for the enhancement of the socio-economic development of the country, these reverses were not allowed to dent the drive and resolve of his staff Alhaji Kebbay emphasized.

Negotiations, he further stressed, were made with major donors to reactivate projects that were suspended as a result of the prevailing security in the country. Most of the projects where reactivated and successes could also be attributed to the SLRA’s Mechanical Services Unit, which provides both Equipment and Technical support to SLRA and road contractors.

Speaking on the Road Fund, the Deputy Director of the SLRA Mr. Adolphus Jackson said that, in most countries, 80-90 percent of all goods and passengers are transported by road, including most of the export traffic that are eventually sent out by sea.

If the roads are poorly maintained and badly managed, it hampers inter-regional trade, discourage international investors and undermines the country’s position in international trade. The agricultural sector which is entirely dependent on reliable and accessible roads, could also be undermined. A well managed road network Mr. Jackson said is one of the essential pre-requisites for economic growth especially given the growing focus on developing rural areas.

During the early stages of development, road management tends to focus on the development of basic road infrastructures and Sierra Leone has been doing this for several decades thus constructing quite an extensive network of gravel roads. Much remains to be done, Mr. Jackson said but he opined that the main pre-occupation of the country and the SLRA should not be just building of more roads, but conserving the road assets that are already there.

Link to Sierra Leone Roads Authority Brace up for Roads Development in Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone News