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Tollgate Tariff Brouhaha…

By Ibrahim Alusine Kamara (Kamalo)
The recently pronounced tariffs for the use of the Wellington/Masiaka four-lane road to take effect on the 1st of March 2024 have ignited hot debates amidst mixed feelings in every nook and cranny of the Sierra Leonean nation.
“The Toll tariff shall be adjusted subject to a review on the base traffic data by both parties whenever the exchange rate varies by 10%. The Concessionaire shall ensure that the Toll Tariffs are published at such time so as to enable the adjusted tolls to be charged with effect from the requisite date under this Concession Agreement. At any rate, Not later than 2 days after mutual agreement,” so Clause 10.4 (Revisions to the Highway Tolls) of the Concession Agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and China Railway Seventh Group enshrines.
However, the government’s recent pronouncement of new highway toll charges suggests a wider elasticity of cost. Thus, motorists who used to pay NLe1, NLe4, NLe18, NLe100, and NLe183 for all categories of vehicles will now pay NLe3, NLe10, NLe40, NLe250, and NLe700, respectively. This confirms an increment between 150% and about 300% instant, extremely far way more than the 10% adjustment stipulated by the Concession Agreement.
Also, Clause 11.2.2 of the Concession Agreement simply dictates that “The Concessionee shall furnish the Concessionaire with a monthly and quarterly report in respect of its operations and maintenance annually or as otherwise reasonably notified by the Concessionaire. Such report shall be in an agreed format.”
But the Minister of Works and Public Assets, Dr. Dennis Sandy, is now making news headlines for saying he has not seen or received audited financial statements or traffic data regarding the Wellington/Masiaka four-lane road.
“We don’t have the review of the base traffic data nor have we seen the financial states or audited reports of the CRSG’s operations of the road,” the Works Minister is quoted as pinpointing, thus, raising a query as to why the government could be so dormant in the implementation of the Concession
Agreement as to not forcing the company to present such important documents for the records.
It should be noted that the Bio government is now six years in state governance and for the Minister of Works and Public Assets, Dr. Sandy, who himself was part of the erstwhile government that actualized and rolled out the four-lane road project, to tell Sierra Leoneans of never seeing the financial statements and audited reports on the operation of the road raises high eyebrows! It even smacks of paying lip service to issues of national development on the part of the government as well as lack of official competence on the part of the ministers that have so far presided over the Works and Public Assets Ministry over the past six years.
It is even ridiculous for the minister to say he has now requested the company to submit its financial statements and audited reports only after the new tariffs and the time it would take effect had been announced.
Meanwhile, what may have been in limbo also is the 10% yearly income due the government out of the proceeds of the toll payments as embedded in the Concession Agreement, as Dr. Denis Sandy could not confirm his government ever receiving a dime from CRSG.
More worrying is when the government has not for once availed the nation of any information on the toll road regarding what it is receiving on behalf of the people and what has so far been repaid by Sierra Leoneans.
The government’s lack of interest in implementing the four-lane road Concession Agreement could also be evident in Dr. Sandy’s statement that since he took over the Works and Public Assets Ministry, he has not been privy to any Evaluation Report.
“I have searched and asked but couldn’t see any public information on the proposed evaluation in 2018,” #FreetownStories quotes the Minister as saying in a report dispatched on social media.
“Is this, therefore, suggestive that the former Deputy Minister of Works, Melrose Kargbo, had lied to journalists in 2018 about the President, Julius Mada Bio, setting up an evaluation team to investigate the toll road contract?” Dennis and Melrose, who’s who in the path of the truth?” the citizens are querying.
“The government should come clean in this toll road thing. We are suffering to get even a single meal a day. Astronomical increment in tollgate tariffs as such proposed to take effect on March 1st means adding more woes to our already penury state of being and it is unacceptable,” the citizens bemoan.

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