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An optimism by some local contractors that the government would fulfill its firm vow of settling the huge chunk of verified arrears owed them before the end of December 2023 continues to be ruined even as it is now mid-January 2024, the Salone Compass Newspaper has learned.
Already, the local contractors are said to have become deeply disgruntled over the repeated excuses advanced by some senior officials in the Ministry of Finance, including the Minister himself, for the delay in paying the arrears.
We learned the disappointed local contractors were initially told to exercise restraints as the arrears owed them were going to be paid from part of the World Bank’s US$65 Million grant that was in the pipeline to support the government’s macroeconomic stability.
However, even though the World Bank has since disbursed that money through the Bank of Sierra Leone on December 21, 2023, no payment has been made to the local contractors, and they were instead told again to wait until the salaries and wages due the civil and public servants for December were paid.
The seeming tomfoolery reportedly continued as the contractors were told a few days later that the Minister of Finance, Sheku Ahmed Fantamadi Bangura, had stopped coming to the office because of personal reasons.
One of the affected contractors disclosed how they were again told in the first week of January 2024 that the State House needed to approve all payments before disbursement could take place.
Meanwhile, it appears that the Ministry of Finance officials have run out of excuses and are now dodging local contractors, leaving them more frustrated to the point that some of them have in turn deserted their offices for fear of being angrily attacked by their employees and/or suppliers.
We gathered that this lack of payment or its delay undermines the implementation of key government projects especially in the water, agriculture, energy, health, and roads sectors.
The implementation of most of these projects in the provinces has stalled because of the lack of or late disbursement of funds by the Ministry of Finance.
The implementation of President Dr Julius Maada Bio’s Big 5 development agenda, including Feed Salone also stands to be largely undermined by this payment lapse from the Ministry of Finance.
“The Ministry of Finance should stop frustrating local contractors by making timely disbursement of funds for the implementation of major government development projects”, warned a retired senior civil servant in the Ministry of Development.
All attempts to contact senior officials in the Ministry of Finance to comment on the issue proved unsuccessful over the weekend.

Investigations continues

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