By Jariatu Bangura
Senior officials of the Sierra Leone Roads Authority and the Road Maintenance Fund Administration (RMFA) on Wednesday faced members of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Works, Housing and Infrastructure to explain about the use of funds for the construction of roads across the country.
Speaking at the hearing, Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Kombor Kamara, said many of the roads that are being constructed across the country are bereft of quality, even though government continues to invest huge sums in them.
He opined that as representatives of the people, MPs have the constitutional right to be included in the monitoring and evaluation process of road maintenance and construction, as well as to be accorded the opportunity to assess contractors prior to the award of contracts, and that the SLRA should share the bulk of blame if roads are not well maintained.
He noted that the SLRA was in breach of the Local Content Policy as most contracts for the construction of roads are awarded to foreign companies.
On his part, Executive Director of RMFA, Abdul Kalokoh, said the institution has provided funds to SLRA and local councils for the maintenance, construction, re-construction and rehabilitation of roads.
However, he said that if rehabilitation required an alteration to the entire structure of the road, they could not provide funds because such was outside their purview, but if the rehabilitation was only limited to relaying roads and repairing drainages and culverts, they would pay for such activities.
He said that for 2013 and 2014, they have made a commitment to provide an initial Le56 billion for road maintenance and that to date, based on the activities that they have committed and provided funding for, the figure now stands at Le70bn, which includes a number of road rehabilitation exercises such as the rehabilitation of Macaulay Street to Mountain Cut, Kissy Road and Fourah Bay Road respectively.
He maintained that they have also provided funds for the rehabilitation of 25 streets in Freetown, which according to him, have been completed and entail the first phase of road maintenance, while the second phase would target every street in Freetown. He said that in 2013, feeder roads in the provinces were earmarked for maintenance through a Le9 billion grant to local councils, and that based on activity reports presented by councils, they have paid in excess of Le1.4 billion and are preparing maintenance activities for 2014.
He said they have been notified though that local councils were not working in partnership with Members of Parliament, hence a policy has been put in place to ensure that councils submit joint proposals with their MPs, and that funds will be withheld if councils are not in compliance as much of the work are not being well monitored and evaluated.
Meanwhile, Project Manager for the hillside by-pass road, Arthur E. Davies, said the road linking Model Junction with Berry Street has been sealed due to the design of the hillside by-pass road which, according to the engineers, should be sealed off in a bid to prevent accidents, although access would be provided for pedestrians.