As the House of Parliament unanimously consider and approves the contract for the financing designing, construction, operation and maintenance of the Wellington-Masiaka Road between the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) and China Railway Seventh Group (CRSG) last Thursday, the construction period is set for four years with one year defects liability period.
Parliament has ratified the toll agreement for the widening of the Wellington-Masiaka Highway into four-lanes.
It may be recalled that at the initial presentation of this agreement to the House for approval, it was deferred to a Pre-Legislative public hearing to clarify some of the reservations and concerns raised by Members of Parliament, such as timeline, alternative routes, among others.
While reading the agreement, which was laid before Parliament on 4th February 2016, the Ag. Minister of Works, Housing and Infrastructure, Abdul B. Barrie, said the agreement is a build, operate, and transfer of the four-lane Wellington-Masiaka Highway, after a period of 25 years by the CRSG to the GoSL.
The Ag minister said there will be alternative routes to the Toll Road, stating that the proposed toll charges are Sedan Vehicle-Le 2,000, Taxi-Le 3,000, Mini Bus-Le 10,000, Coach-Le20,000, Light Truck/Pickup-Le 20,000, Medium Truck-Le 50,000, Heavy Truck-Le 400,000 and Tractor and Trailer Unit-Le500,000.
He said the toll will be located at the following three stations: between Jui Junction and Waterloo, between Waterloo and Mile 38 and between Mile 38 and Masiaka, stating that crossing each station requires payment of one third of the tariff.
The Ag Minster said during the loan payment, 95 percent of the gross annual toll revenue will go to CRSG as repayment while the remaining five percent will go to the GoSL, adding that after the loan repayment, GoSL will be receiving 10 percent while CRSG will be receiving 90 percent.
He said there will be alternative routes as follows: Freetown-Tagrin Route through Lungi-Port Loko Highway and Freetown-Peninsular Road, stating that the Mabang Bridge and Moyamba- Moyamba Junction Road Project is under implementation.
“Hon. Members, you may want to say that the alternative routes will be too cumbersome. However, you would agree with me that the alternative routes to the toll road should not be smooth and easy, or else motorists would prefer those routes,” Mr. Barrie said.
He informed the House that toll operation will commence after the extension of the road to a four-lane from Kilometre (KM) Zero to KM 10 and after attaining 30 percent of site clearing works on the entire road which is about KM20.1, will commence, adding that it was agreed in principle that a Corporate Tax waiver will be given to CRSG for 10 years as stated in the Finance Act.
The Ag minister assured the House that there will be an effective nationwide sensitization in order to explain the rationale for the project through civil societies, trade unions, Print and Electronic media, among others.
While Mr. Barrie was justifying the reasons why the House must consider and ratify the Concession Agreement, he said the project falls within Pillar Four of the Agenda for Prosperity, adding that it will provide jobs for their unemployed youths.
He further stated that the project will create an easy access from the proposed Mamamah International Airport to the city of Freetown, adding that it will increase trade facilitation between neighbouring capitals leading to increase in the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
Commenting on the agreement before it was ratified, Hon. members including Hon. Rosaline J. Smith, Hon. Mustapha Braima, Hon. Ibrahim R. Bundu, complimented the agreement, stating that before they were briefed about the agreement, they had no intension of concession, adding that after the Pre-Legislative stage; where unanswered questions had been answered, they now agreed that the agreement be ratified.
Hon. Umar Paran Tarawallie, while giving reasons as to why the agreement must be ratified, raised concern over the speedy rehabilitation of the alternative routes, adding that the Ministry of Works and team should take note of the right to charge and collecting tolls.
Also, Hon. Ansumana Jaiah Kaikai said the 25 years duration of the project is too long, stating that the government now and the one that will be coming should have the capacity to monitor the charges and make sure that those tolls collected by the Chinese must be accounted to the people of Sierra Leone.
Also, inside the House, after the Teaching Hospital Complex Administration Act 2016 has been read for the “Third Time,” Members of Parliament passed it into law the Act which was laid in Parliament last December.