The Road Maintenance Fund Administration, RMFA with all the challenges, has demonstrated enormous zest in funding critical road projects in the country
Abubakar Hashim /Sierra Leone
Road Maintenance Fund Administration (RMFA) was established by the Road Maintenance Fund Administration Act No. 3 of 2010 for financing the maintenance of the core road network and provide for other related matters. The objective was to set up an independent Administration to ensure the proper, efficient, economic and sustainable management of the Road Fund dedicated for maintenance of the national road network.
The Board and Management of Road Maintenance Fund Administration (RMFA) have severally showcased their achievements in the road maintenance sector having direct bearing on H.E. President Julius Maada Bio’s key manifesto commitments on road infrastructure. Below are few of its key achievements since 2018.
Payment of 108 Billion Leones Loan
The RMFA has partially concluded payment of the loan of One Hundred and Eight Billion Leones incurred by the past Administration from the Rokel Commercial Bank (RCB), Sierra Leone Commercial Back (SLCB) and Commerce and Mortgage Bank to pay for several road projects implemented by the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA).
Budgetary Improvements and Timely Allocations to Local Councils
RMFA from 2019 to date has made significant improvements in budget allocations to all Local Councils across the country. This emanated from the desire to provide meaningful budgetary support to all Local Councils in support of their feeder road maintenance programmes. The financial support apart, the RMFA has crucially provided funding in a timely manner taking cognizance of the Dry season when most maintenance works should happen. An Implementation Cycle supported by a detailed Implementation Plan has been developed and agreed with the Local councils to improve process efficiency.
Launch ofComprehensive Feeder Roads Maintenance Programme
RMFA has just completed launching of its 2021 road maintenance programmes for Local Councils in February of this year. The main objectives of the launching include but not limited to the following:
- Explain the functions, mandate and fiscal status of RMFA for2021 maintenance programme;
- Explain the 2021 implementation plan and a call for inclusive approach during the implementation cycle;
- Make public pronouncement of the names and costs of projects allocated to Councils for transparency.
- Encourage the Local stakeholders to monitor and claim ownership of the road maintenance projects in their respective communities to realize value for money. Thus, encouraging them to provide support in the implementation and monitoring of road maintenance projects.
Technical Contribution to the Presidential Taskforce
RMFA contributed to the deliberations of the Presidential Taskforce on the road sector with focus on four thematic areas:
- Quality Assurance and Cost Management of Roads.
- Identification of key township and trunk roads that have immediate social, economic, political and developmental impact.
- Seek alternatives to construct/ rehabilitate/maintain roads in an environmentally friendly approach.
- Develop a National Feeder Roads Programme
RMFA team continue to be a key player in the taskforce, working with key stakeholders within the sector, with the work of this taskforce culminating into a high-level international roads financing conference planned for later this year.
Inclusive and Proactive Engagement with Stakeholders
RMFA has engaged the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA), Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA), Ministries of Finance, Works, Local Councils and other stakeholders in training workshops to discuss and streamline operational procedures and implementation cycle.
Recently, RMFA engaged the Local Councils to discuss and identify issues on operational efficiency, procedures and best practices. These visits provided the opportunity to both parties to discuss their challenges and proffer solutions that will improve the road maintenance sector with a view of further enhancing the socioeconomic development in the country.
COVID-19 Pandemic Intervention
The Covid-19 took the world and Sierra Leone by surprise but with the visionary leadership of the President and his team, swift actions were taken to mitigate the hazards of the pandemic. Institutional involvement to help in the fight against Covid saw RMFA responding at regional levels in a massive sensitization campaign and providing support and distribution of Covid prevention materials like Veronica and Receiver Buckets, Facemasks, Soaps and Hand Sanitizers at Checkpoints and District Covid Centers nationally.
Challenges and Recommendations
RMFA Act 3 of 2010: Sections of the RMFA Act 2010 are obsolete and overtaken by events. Besides, the Act is at variance with the Acts ofother key players like the SLRA, SLRSA and Local Government in the road maintenance sector. This has created conflicting roles and mandates resulting in misunderstandings and tensions in the various relationships.
RMFA recommends that Government and other stakeholders support a comprehensive review of the various Acts involving all key players in the road maintenance sector.
Low Fuel Levy: The current rate of fuel levy in Sierra Leone is the lowest in the West African sub-region, if not the world at large; equivalent to 3 US Cents/Liter. The result is low generation of revenue from Road User Charges levied on fuel as against the huge road maintenance requests from implementing partners.
The RMFA recommends that Government increase the fuel levy to the industry recommended rate which currently stands at 12 USCents/liter. This will significantly impact maintenance activities by generating more funds.
Access to Vehicle Registration and License Data: Lack of access to a comprehensive database on vehicle licenses and registrationfrom the SLRSA makes it difficult to ascertain the percentage andrevenue accrued from these operations by SLRSA which forms a significant component of our revenue.
RMFA recommends that SLRSA makes available a comprehensive database for all vehicle licenses and registrations within the borders of Sierra Leone. We believe making the information available will ultimately lead to a significant improvement in contributions by the SLRSA into the Road Fund.
Road Maintenance over Road Rehabilitation: RMFA is in a difficult financial position to repay the loan taken which was used on road rehabilitation as well as support its ongoing road maintenance programmes. This has continued to affect our current finances and by extension constrained a more effective service delivery.
RMFA recommends that any future loan arrangement must be focused on road maintenance activities and not rehabilitation and explore other sources to increase finances available for road maintenance activities.
Coordination of Road Maintenance Programmes: RMFA notes that there are several other institutions involved in especially feeder road maintenance activities in Sierra Leone but this hasn’t been carefully coordinated to bring synergy to the sector. For instance, Smallholder Commercialization and Agribusiness Development Project (SCADep), National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), European Union (EU), Local Government, Ministry of Agriculture etc are all engaged in road maintenance. This has made it impossible to rationalize road maintenance resources nationwide and ultimately be more efficient and productive in the road sector.
RFMA recommends that the Government must, as a short-term measure, support the process to bring collaboration and coordination to the feeder road maintenance sector. A medium to long term approach will involve consolidating all road maintenance funding into a single special account for that purpose.
Other Sources of Funding: The Covid 19 Pandemic resulted in Government banning Inter-district vehicular movements and international travels in and out of Sierra Leone. The pandemic has resulted in a significant reduction in fuel sales nationally which contributes about 90% to our budget. RMFA, SLRA and SLRSA are now collaborating to explore potential funding sources (e.g., Donors, Toll gate, Street Parking and Parking along Beaches) other than their traditional funding sources.
RMFA recommends that Government supports these initiatives by providing the enabling environment to identify potential revenue generation areas for road maintenance including budgetary allocations.
RMFA’s Mandate: RMFA will continue to engage Government and key stakeholders at all levels to completely own rehabilitation & reconstruction projects thereby allowing RMFA to refocus on routine & periodic maintenance in accordance with the RMFA Act, 2010. RMFA will continue to engage the SLRA to improve on implementation of performance-based approach to managing road contracts thereby increasing efficiency; as well as work with key stakeholders to implement priority areas in the road sector.
With the support of the Government, Donors and People of Sierra Leone, RMFA will deliver more on His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio’s key manifesto commitments in 2021 and beyond.