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The Bandajuma-Pujehun road construction project: A callous display of negligence and lack of monitoring and patriotism by Pujehun stakeholders

12 October 2021 at 19:12 | 1217 views

Commentary

The Bandajuma-Pujehun road construction project: A callous display of negligence and lack of monitoring and patriotism by Pujehun stakeholders

By Kortor Kamara, USA

What I have decided to term a callous display of negligence of duty, lack of patriotism and non-representation by Pujehun District stakeholders and politicians, has now been on display since 2013 for all and sundry, with the still incomplete government of Sierra Leone - contracted road construction project from Bandajuma to Pujehun town, by First Tricorn road construction company.

A project slated to have been completed in 2016, still remains incomplete, 5 years beyond its completion date, with total unaccountability by the contractor, the SLRA, the central government and local representatives, to ensure timely completion and compliance to the terms of the contract.

The total abandonment of advocacy, monitoring and compliance by the local community and leadership, who are the direct beneficiaries of this roads project, represents a callous disregard for the welfare and priorities of the people.

The company, First Tricorn was first awarded a 5-kilometer township road construction contract in 2011, which was extended to 7.8 kilometers in 2012 by the erstwhile APC administration. By 2015, this modest road contract had not been completed, thereby engendering resentment among the people as to the capacity and competence of the company to complete the contract.

Subsequently, in the wake of much fanfare and hope, especially for the people of Pujehun district, the Government of Sierra Leone ( GoSL) in 2013 awarded a road construction contract to a Nigerian company - Tee-Mark Limited, which later changed its name to First Tricorn Construction Company (SL) - for construction of the 24-kilometer Bandajuma to Pujehun town road.

For non-indigenes of Pujehun, it is worth noting that the southernmost part of Sierra Leone, bordering Liberia and the Atlantic Ocean, is Pujehun district, with its headquarter town Pujehun (see map below). This historically significant town was the successor headquarters of the now defunct Bandajuma District of the colonial era, and has produced many Sierra Leone luminaries and politicians, who to date continue occupying high state offices.

However, ease of accessibility to the headquarter town of the district, which possesses huge mineral and extractive resources, not to mention fishing, forestry and agricultural fertile lands, has always been a bane of its socio-economic underdevelopment.

The proposed start date of this road construction project, according to the terms of the contract was June 1, 2013. However, as a harbinger of things to come and a foreshadow of the prior 2011 township agreement, which had over the years frustrated the indigenes and visitors to Pujehun, the project did not start until October 21, 2013 and has to date in 2021 remained largely uncompleted.

According to the Audit Service Sierra Leone report, entitled “ Report on the Technical Audit of Social Security, Telecommunications, Civil Works and Energy Sectors - March 2019”, the completion date for the Bandajuma - Pujehun Road was subsequently unilaterally extended from June 1, 2013 to June 30, 2015, by the company citing “change in scope and additional works/EPA closure of quarry sites”.

In a 2015 Government of Sierra Leone report titled “Nationwide Verification and Monitoring of On-going Development Projects”, this GoSL funded project was reported to have been 20% completed. The report stated that “during our assessment, bush clearing, site erection, earth moving work has been done on 7km of the road, given a proportion of 20% of work done so far”. The report further noted that the GoSL had not disbursed any funding but work was being pre-financed.

It should thus be noted that from 2013 through 2018, when the erstwhile APC government left power, only 20 percent of the work had been done by First Tricorn.

How has the road fared during the SLPP administration?

The president, HE Julius Maada Bio, who coincidentally spent a meaningful period of his teenage years growing up in Pujehun, has always shown great deference and love for the people of Pujehun by incorporating in his cabinet, state agencies and commissions, what some would argue is a rather disproportionate amount of Pujehun indigenes.

I am sure, the president by bringing so many Pujehun indigenes in his government, intended their inclusion not for personal aggrandizement, but as an opportunity for these our brothers and sisters to ensure development projects, such as completion of the district roads, employment and other priorities are properly advocated for and implemented in the interests of the people.

The question that many Pujehun people are currently grappling with, is whether our Pujehun politicians and stakeholders are truly in the service of the president’s vision and developmental aspirations or only for personal aggrandizement?

Since inauguration of the current government in 2018, President Bio’s administration has not only renewed the contract for construction of the road, with the same First Tricorn Construction Company in 2018, but infact added an additional 17.8 kilometers of road construction from Pujehun to Gbondapi, to the First Tricorn contract.

Thus, despite delays in completion of the initial Pujehun township roads and the current Bandajuma to Pujehun road, spanning several years, it’s incomprehensible as to why an additional road contract for the Gbondapi road was even awarded to First Tricorn.

Pujehun Stakeholders
To better understand why First Tricorn construction company continues having Government of Sierra Leone contracts, spanning both APC and SLPP administrations, especially in the southeast, my research of available information and sources, reveals a conundrum entangling various actors, some of whom are direct indigenes of Pujehun district, who appear to be in collusion with the construction company.

The negligent and lackadaisical role played by Pujehun district stakeholders and politicians throughout this road construction saga, has became one of grave concern to many indigenes, who fail to fathom, not only the foot-dragging by First Tricorn but more especially the lack of any meaningful advocacy by the multitude of politicians, ministers, directors purportedly representing the district’s interests.

The fact that several top ranking government officials ply the Bandajuma to Pujehun road every weekend, since the award of the 2013 contract, but express no advocacy as to why, who and what are the stumbling blocks towards timely completion of this road, more than explains the lack of representation and potential conflicts.

The role of SLRA
The government of Sierra Leone, and especially its agency, the SLRA bears an especial responsibility to the people of Pujehun district for the negligent, shoddy and untimely completion of this 24- kilometer road.

The absence of any road design drawings, material tests, failure of project supervision, status of project reports, as documented in the Audit Sierra Leone 2019 report, glaringly point to failures of the contracting agency SLRA.

Finally, It is highly recommended that the SLRA leadership reviews the very damning Audit Sierra Leone 2019 report on its management or rather lack thereof of road construction contacts and agreements in the country, with especial emphasis on the Bandajuma to Pujehun road.

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