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Maritime Administration; reaching its waterloo

Maritime Administration; reaching its waterloo

Accidents in whatever shape or form could not be prevented if it has been destined by God Almighty to happen. No amount of human sacrifices could stop it from occurring. This is a sad reality though. But there are times when actions could be taken to prevent such an accident from happening in the future. Now take for instance; overloading a vehicle could lead to an accident, therefore I must ensure I don’t to overload that vehicle. This definitely will prevent me from having an accident. (Photo: Pa John Baimba Sesay)

The recent sea disaster that left several people dead has opened a Pandora’s Box, especially from the viewpoint of what has been happening in institutions created to oversee the administration of sea transportation. In this case, I am referring to the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration which I learnt has one Phillip Lakullay as its Executive Director. As a matter of fact I have never met with this gentleman, but I carried some investigations on him in the recent past.

From a general standpoint, the recent sea disaster could be seen as an incident that occurred as a result of the professional negligence of certain people charged with the responsibility of ensuring that measures are put in place to prevent such disasters. And this is where I think this government should come in heavily and ensure those responsible are brought to book. I shall today be looking at the Maritime wing of our sea administration, looking at what has been happening in that institution since it was established some nine years ago by President Tejan Kabbah and the current Executive Director taking leadership control.

The Sierra Leone Maritime Administration was created by an Act of Parliament 2000 and it was done to establish an autonomous body for the registration of ships and other vessels, ‘the licensing and safety of maritime personnel and for the regulation and development generally of maritime, coastal and inland water transport …’

Section 10 of the Act states the functions to be performed by this body and they include but not limited to; the regulation of shipping in inland waters, including the safety of navigation therein; to ensure the safety of navigation in the territorial sea; to cause to be investigated any incidents of maritime casualty and taking such action thereon as may be appropriate, et al functions. I look forward to SLMA investigating the recent sea disaster.

The functions of the Maritime Administration are plenty but one keeps pondering as to what extent this department has been performing its functions. I am writing this piece with consternation over what I would refer to as negligence on the part of the Maritime Administration for not performing its functions soberly. Bodies charged with the responsibility to perform a particular function must be seen performing and when that fails, those at the helm of affairs should be shown the exit doors.

The Maritime Administration as I have stated earlier was established primarily to regulate coastal and inland water transportation and the decision by the ex-government to bring about this body into play was a welcomed one, taking into consideration what people had been going through in terms of sea traveling. But the functions of the institutions have been misunderstood to mean a money making event, with parochial interests superseding national interest.

Now since the creation of this body in 2000, one Phillip Lakullay has been running it with virtually no new initiatives or improvement seen in the administration of the Maritime. The Act which created the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration stipulates that there should be other officers who should help in the day to day running of the SLMA but my understanding is that until recently, when some were filled; most of the positions were all vacant with the man at the helm of affairs virtually serving as all rounder.

This is not done in modern day administration, even if it is one’s home; there are structures which should be maintained if the house should keep going. The Dad should not be seen performing all the roles in the house, thus not creating an avenue for others to show their talents. This is what has been happening at the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration.

Practically if there had been any serious coordination of functions within the SLMA or if functions were delegated to other staff within the Administration, there would have been effective and sober monitoring of all the coastal areas, because my understanding is that in most of the coastal areas, there are either no or one Maritime Monitors to, among other functions prevent boats from overloading, and this is just too unacceptable to say the least. In a civilized democratic setting the head at SLMA should be forwarding his letter of resignation now to the President. He should not be even coerced to do so

Again, there is this salient point of people ensuring people have the required qualifications to run certain institutions. I have taken a look at the SLMA Act 2000 and section 14 of the Act outlines the qualifications for one to be made Executive Director of the Maritime Administration. It states that no person shall be appointed Executive Director unless he has ‘… formal qualification in any profession or discipline relevant to or appropriate to the operations of the Administration…’ But if my understanding that the current head of affairs at SLMA is having a BA general degree in History, then I now see the need for him to go to the classroom where he definitely would be a good teacher in History, than running an area that needs people with the appropriate qualification. As a journalist with qualifications in the profession, I am not expected to go and head an institution that has to do with Medicine; just too impossible. But this is what appears to be happening at SLMA.

I stand to be corrected, but it is my view that people don’t even know much about SLMA as in the case with many institutions of which when once you call the name people are well set to tell you where they could be located. Let us also consider the current location of the office; my investigations indicate that the building currently occupied by SLMA is owned by the Sierra Leone Ports Authority. SLMA was able to secure funding to build its headquarters at Government Wharf but my investigations indicate that the man at the helm of affairs at SLMA has not allowed staff to begin using the building since it was finished long time ago. Even the Board of Directors of the SLMA is reported to have spoken to the Executive Director to see need to occupy the new offices but has since not allowed that.

There have also been attempts by the head of the institution to get UNDP occupy the building but that has failed, since UNDP did not accept to use the offices. Now plans are underway to rent the building at the detriment of other workers who are reported to be occupying tiny rooms at the current office being used by the Administration. With these problems we begin to see why the SLMA has not being able to perform. Where there is low morale, there is definitely going to be poor performance. And this is more the reason the government should intervene and think of asking Lakullay to resign, especially following the recent sea disaster.

People with the right caliber should be made to manage institutions of National Trust and this must start with the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration. Appointments into key positions of trust must go along with just not the qualification but the needed qualification.

From the perspective of governance, a person should not allow a situation wherein his workers are afraid of him and a boss should always listen to the views of others. This may not be the case at the moment at the SLMA. If that was the case, there was no need for complaints to be made to the office of the Ombudsman by aggrieved drivers of the SLMA. It should be underscored that the system of divide and rule may not succeed help in taking an institution to the direction it aught to go. Setting workers against each other is most unacceptable. I need no go far as far as this aspect is concerned as the Ombudsman’s Office is currently investigating reports of maladministration from staff at the SLMA

I recently looked at the Nassit ferry issue, challenging that the ferries are old and are not sea worthy. This issue has led to several questions being asked by citizens. And therefore, it is also disheartening to learn that SLMA has given a certificate of registration for the two vessels and this occurred even before the inspection reports on the two vessels. The President must therefore step in and avert from collapse of state institutions like the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration. The ACC must as well come in and investigate these issues.

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