During the Ministry of Information and Civic Education’s recent weekly press briefing, Brima Baluwa Koroma, the Executive Chairman of the Petroleum Regulatory Agency (PRA) detailed significant strides made by the Agency in the past five years. He also urged journalists and media outlets to avoid portraying the PRA simply as a crisis management entity.
Koroma, who took the helm of PRA during a critical period requiring substantial reform, underscored the complex and volatile nature of the industry. He addressed the challenges the Agency faced due to a scarcity of investors and staff, which impeded the Downstream Sector’s growth and made petroleum products’ access difficult for the country’s citizens.
The PRA Chairman explained that the Agency currently collaborates with four importers in Sierra Leone for the provision of petroleum products. He expressed concern that the total storage facility for the Downstream Sector, boasting nearly 200,000 metric tons of capacity and owned by the Government of Sierra Leone, is fully in the hands of private investors. He described the Government’s non-participation in petroleum import as “unreasonable.”
However, a significant development came in December 2022 when the cabinet granted Sierra Oil Company the exclusive rights to import petroleum products. This company is also responsible for determining retail pump prices in accordance with global market dynamics, guided by regular updates from the international benchmark, Platt.
Koroma revealed an impressive increase in the Agency’s revenue generation, which rose from 4.76 Billion Leones in 2018 to a staggering 800 Billion Leones by 2022. He attributed this success to the agency’s savvy and proactive regulators. He further vowed to increase the agency’s revenue contributions, which currently account for 12% of the country’s domestic revenue.
Over the years, the PRA has expanded its footprint beyond its initial base in Freetown. It has now established regional offices in the North, South, and Eastern Regions, helmed by committed Regional Managers. Furthermore, plans are underway to inaugurate a new office in Port Loko Township in the Northwest Region by February 2024.
Highlighting Sierra Leone’s growing petrol consumption, Koroma noted that the daily intake has risen to about 1.4 million liters, up from 1.2 million liters per day in 2022. He projected this figure to jump to 3.5 million liters per day over the next five years. This trend has prompted PRA to initiate an overhaul to enhance its efficiency and competitiveness. In line with these efforts, PRA is in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reassess current retail pump prices, a move that has received the World Bank’s approval.
In his concluding remarks, Koroma appealed to journalists and media practitioners to recognize the PRA as a positive force in the industry, not merely a crisis response unit. He discouraged the media from magnifying minor issues and encouraged the focus on the agency’s year-long achievements. “We shouldn’t sensationalize minor issues while the agency continues to make significant strides throughout the year,” he stated. He emphasized that occasional challenges are not indicative of failure and encouraged the media to spotlight the PRA’s substantial efforts to stabilize the country’s fuel supply.