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Parliament ratifies loan agreement for 15-storey city complex

By Samuel J. Kargbo

Lawmakers yesterday ratified a loan agreement between the Republic of Sierra Leone and the Export-Import Bank of South Korea, to finance the construction of an Administrative Complex for the Freetown City Council.

While presenting the loan agreement to lawmakers, Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Momodu Kargbo said the project involves the design and construction of an ultra-modern fifteen storey Administrative Complex for the municipality. The building, he said, would consist of three basement floors to serve as car park, utility services, city theatre, municipal assembly hall, and administrative offices for Council staff. He said fund would also cater for the provision of equipment for electrical and mechanical works and furnishing of the building, as well as consultancy services, while the expected project implementation period is three years.

Mr. Kargbo said the entire cost of the project was $63.8million, and that the South Korea EXIM Bank would provide $54.986 million highly concessional loan while government of Sierra Leone will provide in-kind contribution of $8.3 million, which amount would be delivered through forgone revenue in tax and duty waivers on the project.

He said the terms and conditions of the loan include forty years maturity period, plus fifteen years grace period, with an interest rate of 0.01% per annum and a service charge of 0.1% per each disbursement. He said the loan is highly concessional with a grant element of 73% against a threshold of 35%, noting that this one of the best concessional loan resources government has secured from an external creditor in recent times.

He revealed that during the negotiation and upon government’s request, the EXIM Bank granted a waiver to FCC to undertake advance procurement by the consultant to fast track the implementation of the said project.

In his response to the minister, Hon. Hassan Sheriff opined that the construction of the multi-storey complex would generate a lot of revenue for the Council. He commended that fact that the interest rate on the loan agreement is very low, urged the Ministry of Finance to monitor the implementation of the duty waiver of the said project.

Deputy Minority leader, Hon. Ansumana KaiKai said the construction of such a complex should not be limited to Freetown alone, but other cities in the country. The opposition lawmaker urged Finance ministry officials to set up a very strong monitoring team to monitor the project in a bid to ensure it is left unfinished. He also urged the Mayor and his team to ensure the project is implemented as planned and to avoid any outcome that might place the country in a bad light with development partners.

Majority Leader, Hon. Ibrahim Bundu said the loan agreement was the first in the history of the country and that they would ensure the purpose of the loan was fulfilled. He urged Council officials to put in place a proper maintenance system to ensure the building is well taken care of as lack of maintenance culture was a major problem in the country.