Tuesday, September 4, 2018 3:44 pm
The main flagship program of former President Koroma was road infrastructure. But the executional methodology was fraught with huge challenges due to the non-cordial relationship between the Sierra Leone Roads Authority SLRA, the technical arm and the Road Maintenance Fund Administration RMFA, the funding agency. This was a sad development. It created bottlenecks, as the two must work together to enhance due process, transparency and accountability. The new man incharge of the RMFA, Sheku M Kanneh is no stranger to the nitty-gritty of road administration. Within a few days on resumption of duties, he has commenced a process of mending the frosty relationship. In this interview with ABUBAKAR HASHIM, he reveals the secret of the success of the new healthy relationship between SLRA and RMFA and his aims and objectives
You were appointed just a few days ago but you are not new in the system of road administration. This makes you tick and a valuable tool in the industry. What are your aims and objectives as the new CEO of RMFA?
Yes, you are right. I’m new in this office but not new to the road sector in Sierra Leone. I’ve served in Senior Management positions within the road sector over the past 15 years. Until my appointment by His Excellency, The President, I was serving as Finance Director at the Sierra Leone Roads Authority SLRA.
I came here with a mandate. This is to ensure that the two major players in the road sector, the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA) and the Road Maintenance Fund Administration (RMFA) work together harmoniously. Of course I’m not leaving out other players in the sector like the councils and other bodies. But my specific mandate is to ensure the two key institutions work together. I am proud to say that I’ve hit the ground running. I was able to bring the SLRA and the RMFA together, draw up a maintenance program to cover the rest of the year (September to December). We were able to achieve this within 3 hours!
Previously, this would have taken a month or two. Activities within the maintenance program include road-side brushing of trunk roads nationwide, pre-mixed patching of roads immediately following the end of the rains and the engagement in data collection of our road assets. This will be used by the SLRA to prepare their strategic plan for the period of 5 years. This is a key step to providing a road map for continuous road maintenance nationwide.
The SLRA and RMFA do not have a cordial relationship. As an insider in the road system, what modalities are you working toward a healthier relationship?
I’ve just mentioned one. By getting the SLRA and RMFA work together from a round table on some burning issues of road maintenance programs. This was necessary to achieve the “New Direction” philosophy of the President, as far as road maintenance programs are concerned.
The other area is regular engagement, between these two institutions and other relevant stakeholders in the road sector. The success of this sector is only possible and sustainable when all relevant stakeholders are on board, to reduce duplication and potential wastages of limited resources. SLRA is the technical agency while RMFA is the funding establishment. The two must work together to deliver quality in services and get value for money.
What is the working relationship with similar bodies in other West African Countries?
Prior to joining the RMFA, I had little knowledge of any working relationship between and amongst similar bodies in West Africa or the wider region. However, since my appointment, I have been briefed and informed that Sierra Leone is a member of the 35 member countries called Africa Road Maintenance Funds Association. Sierra Leone is also a member of the regional body, the West Africa Focal Group of which there are about 14 countries. There are meetings scheduled for this year and I plan to attend, first as a step to introduce myself to the association, but more importantly, to learn as much as possible from sister countries that have made significant advancements in aspects of road maintenance. On my return, I expect to use these experiences gained to make meaningful contribution in the road sector in Sierra Leone.
How does the foreseeable future look like for the RMFA in the Sierra Leone economy?
I know this government has good plans for this country, generally, and the road sector countrywide is an area of keen interest too. Given the battery of experts and experienced staff available at the RMFA, coupled with the right support from the powers that be, the sky will be our limit.
Failure is not an option in this journey at RMFA. We have to succeed. We have to give requisite support to SLRA and other stakeholders in the road sector. Only a collective approach and team work will achieve the desired objectives as enshrined in the “New Direction” manifesto. We simply cannot afford to fail. We also seek to address quality of the road network, in line with international best practices, again to ensure value for money spent. This is the basis of our collaborative approach with SLRA and all other stakeholders within the sector.