Indigenous Transport Owners in Sierra Leone are up in arms with French logistics company Bollore after it emerged that the latter was awarded a lucrative seven-year contract by iron ore mining company, London Mining allegedly in violation of a government pioneered Local Content Policy. The group has called for an immediate government intervention to rectify the anomaly.
According to the Coordinator of the Sierra Haulage and Logistics Service,Paul H. Tucker, the contract was awarded to Bollore even though the company has inadequate resources to independently perform the contract - transporting millions of tonnage of ore awaiting ships at Pepel for onward shipment abroad.
He said while Bollore has just nine trucks, local transporters - which the company sub-contracted - collectively have about a hundred trucks, which inevitably means the job is being done by the Sierra Leonean transport companies who have to settle for paltry fees.
Tucker said Bollore has placed tenders to purchase trucks which would subsequently lead to the termination of the sub-contract between the French logistics company and Sierra Leonean transport companies, thus completely excluding locals from that sector, in blatant contravention of a Local Content Policy introduced in 2012.
He accused London Mining of blatantly failing to respect the policy, which in its 'Policy Prescription' regulates that: "All enterprises operating businesses in any services sector in Sierra Leone including but not limited to banking, insurance, transportation, construction, catering and legal matters, shall retain only the services of Sierra Leonean service providers whose firms are registered and located in Sierra Leone."
It goes on to prescribe that: "Where there is no Sierra Leonean entity to render the required service and it becomes necessary to employ a foreign entity, the foreign entity shall operate in partnership with a Sierra Leonean owned and registered company. The foreign entity shall provide the Committee with a local participation plan which shall describe the role and duties of each partner."
Tucker was also critical of London Mining in their "colonization of every department" in the iron ore company. "It is sad to know that all the departments in London Mining are being operated by foreigners, including the restaurant and it means that Sierra Leoneans are not benefiting from anything from the company," he said.
London Mining had earlier described as false claims that their contract with Bollore was "illegal and fraudulent".
Head of Media Relations and Communications at London Mining, Osman Lahai, said the allegations were "untrue and grounded in falsehood", noting that the company's haulage contract with Bollore was put on public tender in Sierra Leone and strict procurement procedures consistent with national and international best practice were followed in awarding the contract.
"Based on merit, Bollore was awarded the contract in January 2011 and has been in operation for nearly a year when subcontracting began as a short-term measure on fixed-term contract of three months due to the temporal nature of the work," explained Mr. Lahai. "London Mining has been completely transparent in its award of the haulage contract and at no time misrepresented any contractor."
Whether London Mining and Bollore are in compliance with the prescription of the Local Content Policy is pretty much doubtful, as they have been less than convincing in assuaging local transporters who feel shortchanged by the actions of both multilateral companies at the detriment of Sierra Leonean entrepreneurship.
Meanwhile, it is also unclear whether government has established the Local Content Committee which inter-alia is charged with the responsibility to "supervise, coordinate and monitor the implementation of this policy". The Ministry of Trade and Industry, under whose purview the policy was drafted, has remained quiet in the midst of the imbroglio between local transporters and multilateral companies operating in the country's emerging mining boom.