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Sierra Leone Business: Finance Ministry raises concern over Le1bn SLPA Board fees

At the Sierra Leone Ports Authority’s (SLPA) 2019 budget presentation, the Ministry of Finance has raised concern over the Le1.034 billion they have budgeted towards sitting fees and allowances for their proposed Board Members. PFMRU staff Alfred Demby said that based on their disclosure the Authority have what they call study tour for Board Members and that he doesn’t know what they will be doing since that has to do with operations. The Authority budgeted US$14,875 for DSA for five members for seven days and air tickets for same amount of people. These people he said are expected to oversee management, but with this line of expense it is like they are involved in the active operation of the Ports, “I don’t know why are you paying study tour for Board members” he asked. In his response, Chief accountant Malcolm D. Leigh said that the tour is mostly international as the port is a unique environment that is knowledge driven and for most of the people that are appointed as Board Members, they need to understand the operations not just on the local platform but to benchmark with those of other ports. “We grant them the privilege at times when we go out on these operational studies overseas, we take one along so that they see what is going on in other parts of the world or region, that way they can effectively supervise when they know what is going on in other areas” he said. “Because most of them are coming from different areas not from the port sector, they just come with the general business knowledge or the experience from where they were.” These tours he said will help them understand the port as it is compared to other ports which will enable them effectively supervise them. Principal Deputy Financial Secretary Matthew Dingie asked that if they have also received other Board Members from regional ports coming to them for the same exposure? Leigh said they only invite Boards to come help them, because as per the different cadre of the region they expect Togo and Ghana to be up there. “So we are still learning from them rather than them learning from us. It’s the reverse so we expect to go rather than them coming” he said. They were also queried on their wage bill which accounts for 42 percent of their revenue with only 281 staff, the staff cost Dingie said is too large and that they are really concerned and by the time they add other operating costs it will go up to 70 percent to internal cost and delivery of services will be a challenge in terms of your operation. The Authority’s budget takes into consideration a workforce of 281 in terms of salaries and other staff cost for 2019, with a proposal of Le69,150 billion which is about 7 percent increase of 2018 projected figure of Le58.998 billion. The Authority wants to spend Le19,228 billion on staff cost for basic salaries, leave allowances and the others, professional fees is estimated at Le1.459 billion, operational expenses is Le8,788 billion, maintenance materials is Le1.068 billion amongst other expenses. They are expected to have a net of Le15 billion in 2019 where they will deduct taxes and then dividend. In 2017 they paid a dividend of Le2 billion and Leigh promised that soon they will make good to their commitment towards their shareholders. Dingie probed further on what their projected cash position for 2018 is, and Leigh said it is Le18 billion. With this response Dingie said that at least the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) should get some of that as goodwill to welcome the new General Manager. “We want to ensure that the State-Owned-Enterprises (SOEs) should be bringing in dividend starting this year that is why we are not deferring it, so whilst you plug out the wastages and improve the revenues the bottom line you have to declare something.” The revenue figures are projections from Marine Services, Stevedore (liquid bulk), container terminal, Break Bulk Throughput Fee, Marine Slipway Throughput Fee and other income. PDFS Dingie then asked if all the areas listed are there only sources of revenues, Leigh replied that they also collect license fees from concessioners which he said are paid directly to the CRF. The Government he said own 20 percent shares at the Freetown Terminal which is not part of their own figures. The figures he provided he said are operating figures of what comes to the port. On the issue of the Cargo tracking contract, Leigh said it didn’t spell out SLPA portion of it as it was something held in the brains of people that drafted it, so they have not realised anything because there is no obligation. “But there is an agreement that was signed by the SLPA and Ministry of Transport and Aviation which states what should come to the SLPA” Dingie asked. Leigh said yes in the original agreement but only in principle which states that SLPA will have 20 percent of the 60 percent that Government holds, “we have never received anything from it, even with the amendment to the contract we do not have it at the port, we have never received any allotment from CTN, they are only paying us rental for the premise they occupy” Leigh said. Dingie then ask the representative from the National Commission for Privatisation whether it is true that SLPA has not been receiving any funds from CTN, he said no, and that everything that comes from CTN goes straight to the CRF, immediately NCP receives it.

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Monday October 01, 2018.

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