By Foday Moriba Conteh
The National Consortium on Public Accountability has on, November 23, 2023, released a Press Statement urging the immediate review of the toll gate contract agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the China Railway Seventh Group (CRSG) for the construction of the Wellington-Masiaka tarmac road rehabilitation project.
Expressing dismay over the elapsed completion period of the project initially slated from 2017 to 2021, the Consortium highlighted concerns regarding the risk distribution in the Public Private Partnership (PPP) between the Government and CRSG. They also noted that the agreement appeared to place a disproportionate share of risks on the Sierra Leonean Government and citizens rather than being equitably shared.
The Consortium emphasized the need for transparency, stability, and clarity in such agreements and criticized the extension of the contractual period from 25 to 27 years, deeming it not in the best interest of the citizens.
In their findings, the Consortium labeled the awarding of a no-bid contract to the Chinese State-owned construction firm, CRSG, for a substantial capital investment as inconsistent with the country’s procurement policies. They noted that the project wasn’t funded through a China Exim Bank preferential loan or other policy banks of China.
Additionally, they highlighted the absence of an alternative road and raised concerns about the toll gate’s impact on impoverishing the populace, compelled to use it due to the lack of alternative routes.
Further discrepancies were noted in vehicular traffic projections and the actual investment returns within the loan period, pointing out inconsistencies in the agreement’s financial analysis.
The Consortium made several recommendations, including rescinding and renegotiating the agreement, disclosing generated revenues, providing alternative roads to the toll gate, and transparently explaining the agreement to the public to avert chaos.
The statement was signed by Ahmed M. Yillah, Executive Director of Citizens Awareness Forum, and Phillip P. Lansana, National Coordinator of Health Network-SL.
Copies were sent to various Government officials, including the Secretary to the President, the House of Parliament, the Ministry of Works, the Anti-Corruption Commission, and the CRSG Country Manager, among others.