By: Thaimu Bai Sesay

Regarding the recent review of toll gates taxes that has sent shockwaves in the media and public at large, the Committee on Works and Public Assets in Parliament, chaired by Hon. Bashiru Silikie, the Deputy Leader of Government Business has on Friday 23rd February 2024 summoned the relevant stakeholders, requested for a second review draft of the taxes before approving the review.

The hearing hosted in Committee Room One Parliament building by the Committee was witnessed by the Minister of Works and Public Assets and team, Representatives of CSLG Contractors, SLRA Director General and Members of the Forth Estate.

Welcoming the relevant stakeholders, the Chairman of the Committee Hon. Bashiru Silikie informed that they decided to summon the concerned stakeholders due to what he described as a matter of public interest. He said for the last few weeks they had been inundating with news from traditional and social media concerning an increment, to the concession agreement that was put out by the Ministry of Works and Public Assets. Hon. Silikie added that the agreement was supposed to be supervised by the Committee and that the coming to reality of such an agreement could only be approved by the Committee.

After clearly reading out the provisions in the constitution covering the functions of the Committee by the clerk, the Chairman of the Committee asked the CSLG contractors and the Ministry to take the Committee through on what necessitate the increment of taxes. He assured of a peaceful atmosphere as he said they were all family of works.

In their response, representative of the China Railway Seventh Group (CSLG) underscored the enormous benefits of the road to the people of Sierra Leone and how it had been facilitated peoples easy and safe movement to access facilities in the capital. On the reasons that prompted the increment of taxes he pointed out seven main reasons including the high exchange rate, overloading of vehicles and other illegal activities. CSLG Representatives said in the face of those challenges they could not sit by and allow them cause more harm without finding a means to address them. As he said the Company had lost about 72 million dollar due to the many challenges he detailed, he pleaded with the Committee to see reasons for approving the increment.

Additionally, the Chief Director of the Ministry of works and Public Assets affirmed that the Ministry earlier received proposal from the CSLG Contractors for the review of toll gates taxes, and further informed that the Ministry with other stakeholders had had several engagements to reach a win-win agreement. He also informed that the agreement would be followed by two stages, adding that the agreement in question was the first phase.

Having another bite of the discussion, the Chairman Hon. Silikie emotionally reiterated his position of the agreement since it was first brought in Parliament for ratification, saying the agreement would have to affect the people. He commended SCLG for their patient in reviewing the agreement as they supposed to have reviewed it before this time. The Chairman of the Committee Hon. Bashiru Silikie requested for a second draft of the review adding that let the new proposal reduce the people’s cry before their recommendation and approval. He said the proposed date for the increment may or may not stand and assured for a continuous discussion on the matter.

In his statement at the meeting, Hon. Aaron Aruna Koroma Deputy Leader of Opposition in Parliament also affirmed that he was in Parliament when the agreement was ratified. He equally expressed commendation to SCLG for the patient exercised in their operations amidst the challenges. Hon. Aaron affirmed that the 200 percent increment was not too much considering the skyrocketing inflation but said it was too much for the people at this juncture. He also requested for another draft of review on the prices. The Hon. MP assured that they have right to protect the company also have enormous right to protect the people which they are representing.

During the hearing, there were several questions from the Members of Parliament in the Committee such as the total amount generated so far by the company; if they do submit financial records to the relevant authorities; why concealing the amount generated so far which is contrary to the agreement; if all the facilities the road supposed to have were all part of the ongoing construction, and many more. It was generally agreed that there would subsequent meetings with CSLG and the other relevant stakeholders.


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