100 Buses Loan Contract Illegal Parliament Lambasts Transport Minister
The Sierra Leone Parliament has described as illegitimate the loan agreement for the purchase of our controversial hundred new buses as it was never approved by the law-making house.
Both the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) Members of Parliament and those of the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) yesterday, 22nd July, unanimously condemned the loan contract while interviewing the Minister of Transport and Aviation, Leonard Balogun Koroma, on the procurement process of the buses.
The parliamentarians made it categorically clear that such a big loan agreement on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone must have first got their approval as provided in the national constitution.
Hon. Bernadette Lahai of the SLPP asked why the Chairman of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Transport and Aviation was not part of the delegation that travelled to China to negotiate the procurement of the hundred new buses. Hon. Lahai noted that the whole procurement exercise was like putting the cart before the horse due to the woeful failure to first seek parliamentary approval of the loan agreement before procuring the buses.
Hon. J B. Mansaray of the SLPP called for a fair distribution of the buses and demanded whether the Transport Ministry put in place a mechanism to speedily rescue passengers in the case of possible breakdown of any of the buses.
Many MPs demanded to know the total and unit cost of the buses but the Transport Minister only stated the total cost of the buses which, he said, was over twelve million United States Dollars, a total cost that totally agrees with the Chairman and Leader of the Alliance Democratic Party, Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray’s estimated figure.
All efforts by the MPs to prevail on the Transport Minister to disclose the unit cost of the hundred new buses proved futile. The minister’s response was that the whole thing was a big package involving several other costs including the Exportation Credit Insurance amounting to 593.000 US Dollars and the 26% loan interest costing over 1million US Dollars.
Responding to the issue of sole sourcing raised by the MPs, the Transport Minister said the ministry had no alternative but to yield to the condition as government did not have the cash money to buy the buses, citing an example that ECO Bank compelled the ministry to procure 40 buses from the Ashok-Leyland Company as a conditionality to obtain the loan to buy forty of the hundred buses.
To the question of why the loan agreement was not tabled before Parliament for approval, Leonard Balogun Koroma replied that the loan agreement was on its way to Parliament for approval, noting that the Public Debt Office in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development was responsible for the negotiation of national loans.
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