By Foday Moriba Conteh
In the wake of years of perceived inactivity and inefficiency within the Ministry of Works and Public Assets, a significant shift has occurred following the appointment of Dr. Denis Sandy as the Minister of Works and Public Assets by His Excellency President Dr. Julius Maada Bio after the 2023 general elections. Dr. Sandy has spearheaded a transformative agenda, emphasizing a hands-on approach to personally supervise national road projects with the aim of ensuring effective project delivery.
Observing the developments closely, it has become apparent that the Ministry of Works lost some of its essential functions over the past five years to the Ministry of Finance, under the purview of Jacob Jusu Saffa, the former Minister of Finance.
These functions were subsequently executed by the Ministry of Finance and the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA), operating under the Ministry of Works and Public Assets. Unlike in most countries where the Minister of Works assumes the responsibility of signing all road contracts, in Sierra Leone, this task falls to the SLRA and the Ministry of Finance.
Advocating for a streamlined process aligning with international norms, proponents suggest that the Minister of Works and Public Assets should be the sole authority for signing all road contracts, given their overarching role in directing national road projects.
Drawing parallels with international practices, such as Tom Vens European Union Ambassador to Sierra Leone signing all EU-funded road projects in Sierra Leone, and the Minister of Works and Housing in Ghana signing all road projects in Ghana, the call for a unified oversight mechanism gains momentum.
The expectations for the Ministry of Finance in 2024 are clear: payments to contractors should be contingent on performance and recommendations from the Ministry of Works and Public Assets. All payments necessitate the explicit approval of the Minister of Works and Public Assets, with payment forms processed at the Ministry of Works following SLRA requests.
Additionally, road project meetings are proposed to be conducted at the Ministry of Works, with financial matters being concluded at the Ministry of Finance. Collaborative efforts between the Ministry of Works and the Ministry of Finance are encouraged to closely monitor the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA) and the Road Maintenance Fund Administration (RMFA).
Outlined expectations for the Director General of SLRA include discussing all road contract advertisements with the Minister of Works prior to public release, overseeing the bidding process leading to contract awards, and submitting evaluation results for the Minister’s approval before announcing winners.
Contract signings, it is proposed, should be conducted by the Minister of Works in the conference hall of the Ministry of Works and Public Assets, with the SLRA Director General as a witness. Furthermore, the appointment of the Deputy Director General is recommended to be made in consultation with the Chairman of the Board of Directors, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Works Committee, and the Minister of Works and Public Assets.
As major road projects under President Dr. Julius Maada Bio’s administration continue, this medium will continue to provide updates to the public to ensure transparency and awareness.