New Direction Exposed

Many Sierra Leoneans are questioning what they refer to as the double standards of the ‘New Direction’ Government regarding the management of various contracts they inherited from the past government.
The Bio-led government has shown complete disapproval and dissatisfaction, for almost, all contracts signed by their predecessors.
President Bio, in many platforms, prior promised to either review or terminate most of these contracts noting that they were not in the interest of the people of Sierra Leone.
Key among such contracts are the Freetown-Masiaka Toll Road contract, the Net-page Passport contract, the Shandong Iron Ore Tonkolili Project, the Mamamah International Airport City Project and many others.
Bio’s SLPP had made Sierra Leoneans to believe that there was nothing good in the contracts and that his administration would not settle down with them.
He has particularly questioned the relationship between the Chinese and the Koroma-led government who he accused of funding the construction of a party office for the main opposition All People’s Congress, the party which has been in power 11 years ago.
After winning the March,2018 elections, Sierra Leone saw a selective approach to the proposed contracts review or termination by the New Direction Government.
In the Mining Sector, the country also experienced a swift approach to the closure of Shandong Iron Ore and SL Mining contracts based on alleged breaches of some sections of Mining Lease Agreements (MLA) and the Mines and Minerals Act of 2009.
Overall, the argument put forward by officials of the Ministry of Mines and the National Minerals Agency is that Sierra Leone is disadvantaged whenever she negotiates mining contracts with investors.
The appalling situation, according to the government, is caused by the nature of the Mines and Minerals law and the MLA’s signed by the various mining companies with the Government of Sierra Leone.
It is now clear that a consensus exists within government that the country is not benefitting from its God-given wealth and that the status quo must change.
The Ministry of Mines, against this backdrop, has vowed to review the Mines and Minerals Act of 2009 and all other MLA’s of the mining companies operating in the country.
But, eyebrows have been raised on the so-called intention to overhaul the mining sector as only mining companies in the north of the country are targeted for rampant closure while those in the south are in full swing.
many other companies like Sierra Rutile, Vimetco, Octea among others in the South East of the country are still operating under the same bad laws.
The other companies in the northern part of the country could equally operate too while the mining laws are being reviewed.
It has been suspected that government is hiding in the cloak of legal review to keep hundreds of northerners out of jobs.
The existence of the mining companies, is believed, would maintain small businesses, keep the available foreign exchange and taxes and other benefits to the communities.
Away from the Mining sector, we also saw the immediate cancellation of the USD$380M Mammmah Airport Project.
The Bio Government has maintained that the loan from Chinese Exim Bank would heavily weigh on the country’s economy.
Moving on, President Bio had also pledged that his government would not negotiate loans that would have a burden on the economy.
But, Budget Advocacy Network (BAN), a local civil society organisation that specialises on national budget issues, is dismayed when it learned that government has incurred more loans in 2018 exceeding the amount to be spent on the Mammah Airport.
Moves to terminate the Transport and Ports Management have been made by the President, through an executive order.
The Executive Order assured Sierra Leoneans that government has established a committee comprising the Ministry of Transport, the Sierra Leone Ports Authority and the National Commission for Privatization to put measures in place that would open up the biding process to other international service providers.
The Executive Order has also accused PTMS of reneging on their obligations to the Government of Sierra Leone regarding the provision of 60% of the funds accrued from the tracking and monitoring of all cargoes.
Even with the cancellation of a few of these contracts, the public is still confused on why the New Direction government is dragging its feet when it comes to contracts which have direct bearing on the day to day activities of the people of Sierra Leone.
The failure of government to address the Masiaka-Toll Road and the Net-page Passport Contracts have created fresh suspicions about whether the New Direction government is actually reviewing these contracts in the interest of the people or they are influenced by other considerations.
These suspicions are growing against the recent increase of passports prices from Le 750,000 to Le 950,000.
Sierra Leoneans are disappointed in the government’s insistence at maintaining the Net-Page contract owned by a powerful Lebanese businessman, Jamal Shallop, although it is bad in nature.
It is no gainsaying that government has turned deaf ears to the cry of the people by maintaining the contract.
The current situation has exposed the selectiveness and double standards of the government when it comes to dealing with business people.
It could have been better to terminate the Net-page contract which was believed to have cheated the people of Sierra Leone by producing a passport that does not have the agreed security features.
The Government of Sierra Leone, despite giving waivers to Net-page and Thomas De la Rue, they were virtually not benefitting a dime from the proceeds of the dollarized passport.
Many players and companies are interested and ready to produce E-passports for Sierra Leone.
The ‘New Direction Government’ is privy to the realities of the Net-Page contract, but prefers maintaining the relationship with Jamal Shallop to protecting the people of Sierra Leone who are feeling the brunt of the passport price hike.
The situation is also the same with the Chinese Toll Road Contract.
It is factual that the contract is faulty and the ‘New Direction’ government has also promised to review it upon coming to power. But, the promise seemed to have died in the waters.
Sierra Leoneans are paying at three different toll gates when the road is yet to be completed.
Alternative routes for vehicles who do not want to use the toll road are believed to be non-existent. If they exist, they are not properly maintained.
During the Presidential debate, President Bio assured all Sierra Leoneans that he would review the Freetown-Masiaka-Toll Road contract at all cost if he won the election.
The issue of faulty contract was a contentious one in the March, 2018 elections. The opinion of many presidential candidates in the debate were sounded by the Moderator, BBC’s Hassan Arouni.
The SLPP candidate, at the time, President Bio maintained that he would review the toll-gate contract if given the mandate.
But, after a lapse of two years, Sierra Leoneans are paying for an uncompleted road that costs a whooping sum of US$156M.
Why a government which has promised the country a ‘New Direction’ model of governance decides to act contrary to their promises?

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