By Jariatu Bangura & Samuel J. Kargbo
Senior officials at the Rural Private Sector Development Project (RPSDP) are unable to account for funds remitted to them by the World Bank and the Government of Sierra Leone for the rehabilitation of roads in the country, especially in the provinces.
While answering questions during a parliamentary hearing, RPSDP Finance Officer, Usif Sesay bizarrely told lawmakers he couldn’t specify the exact money they received from the bank, as he attempted to blame late disbursement of funds, due to delays by local councils to submit returns.
He rambled that funds were remitted in November last year for the construction of feeder roads, although most of the roads are at conclusion phase.
Grant Manger, Alimamy Kargbo, alleged that during the first phase of project implementation, over 400 kilometers of feeder roads were rehabilitated in all the twelve districts in the country.
He said a further 500 kilometers of feeder roads in nine districtS are expected to be relayed, as part of the second phase of the feeder roads project, albeit Kono, Kailahun, Koinadugu and Kenema are excluded.
Project Engineer, Francis F. Bendu conceded there were delays in the award of contracts because local councils refused to submit documents that are relevant to the award of contracts, as there were issues with the procurement process which was initially handled by local councils and perceived marginalisation by the latter in the implementation of the project.
However, acting Chairman of the Committee on Works, Housing and Infrastructure, Hon. Jusufu B. Mansaray said some of the roads being rehabilitated are his constituency and there was nothing to write home about in terms quality assurance.
He said monies worth billions of Leones have been wasted in the project, yet the process is gathering slow pace, apparently depriving constituents of accessing to feeder roads to accelerate business between and within rural communities.
Works, Housing and Infrastructure Committee member, Hon. Amadu Kanu of Moyamba district said prior to the RPSDP takeover of the project, local councils were in charge of awarding contracts to contractors, but some contractors had their awards terminated, invariably igniting conflict between the councils and RPSDP.
Finance Committee Chairman, Hon. Hassan Sheriff, described documents presented to the Committee as ‘scanty’ without anything to substantiate the amount received and spent, and what remains in the accounts to complete the work, adding that there is no time line as to when work will recommence or be completed.
He urged RPSDP officials to submit another explanatory document by next Wednesday to the Committee, or face the full penalty of the law.