February 24, 2020
By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
Three indigenous companies that are producing license number plates for the country have expressed their dissatisfaction over Sierra Leone Roads Safety Authority (SLRSA)’s attempt to terminate their services for Autospec-a foreign based company.
The three local companies- Bilhaq Trading Company, International Association of Services and the Sierra Trading Company, were given the sole right to produce license number plates for the past for all vehicles for the past twenty-three years.
Speaking to newsmen at the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists Conference Hall, Manager for one of the companies, Samuel Johnson, said they called the press conference to vent out their anger against SLRSA and the Ministry of Transport and Aviation.
He said they were responsible for the production of license number plates, selling and paying commission to the SLRSA, adding that originally the authority was responsible for the collection of monies after sales and deducted their commission, but that they objected to the said method which the authority accepted.
He added that few months ago they started having problems with the authority, which has resulted into the current situation.
He said less than a month ago, they had information that SLRSA has signed a contract agreement with ‘Autospec’ to take over the production of license number plates.
He said when they got that information they tried to investigate with the view of getting it directly from the authority.
He explained that several efforts were made to meet with SLRSA and the Minister of Transport and Aviation, but to no avail.
He said on January 23, 2019 they received a letter from SLRSA, which confirmed that the production of license plates had been given to Autospec Company.
He said they took the said letter to their solicitor, who sent a correspondence to the Authority that gave them the opportunity to meet with the Executive Director, David Panda Noah, together with their solicitors.
He said they had a round table discussion in which lots of promises were made to them including increment of the cost of license plates.
He said in the said meeting they were assured that they should not panic about the contract because their position was unshakable.
He said after that meeting they never heard from the Authority, but that they have continued to work and pay all their bills to the Authority.
He said at the end of 2019, they wrote a letter to the Authority to inform them that none of the promises made to them have been met, but that they never responded to their letter.
He disclosed that the machines they were using to produce the license number plates are specifically made for Sierra Leone, adding that it will not work in any other country.
He said when they noticed that they won’t succeed in the direction they were moving, they decided to down tools last week and sent a message to the Executive Director of the Authority, who later had meeting with them.
He said when they explained to the Executive Director of the Authority and other directors present, they re-assured them that the matter would be settled and also promised to take it up with the Minister of Transport and Aviation, Kabineh Kallon, to see how they would settle the issue.
He said they wrote a letter to the Authority with a timeline which was Wednesday 19th February 2020, but that the Authority did not meet their demands and down tool for the second time.
He said they later received a call from the Executive Director of the Authority informing them about a meeting with the minister.
He said during the meeting with the minister, he explained their problems with the Authority and the minister apologised and pleaded with them not to go to the media as he promised to settle the matter, but it was never done.
Sheik A Fofanah, CEO Balhaq Trading Company, called on the government to make sure the local context policy is implemented, noting that they have all the qualifications and equipment to produce license number plates for the country.
He said the production of license number plate has security issues, and that handing it over to foreign contractors would have some negative implications, noting that they have been contributing over two hundred million Leones in every three months to the consolidated fund.
When contacted, Communications Manager of SLRSA,Abdul Karim Dumbuya told Concord Times that they had issues with the duplication of vehicle number plates which had security implications, hence Parliament in December 2017 ratified an agreement with Autospec to be producing a whole package of securitized number plates and vehicle license.